EFCC has powers to prosecute Lulu, Amanze, Ogunjobi, says Babafemi
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has challenged an application brought before a Federal High Court, Abuja by four former officials of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, seeking to quash corruption charges filed against them by the anti-graft agency.
The quartet of Sani Lulu Abdulahi; Amanze Uchegbulam; Dr. Bolaji Ojo-Oba and Taiwo Ogunjobi, who also challenged the court's jurisdiction in another application are standing trial before Justice Donatus Okorowa on a seven-count charge bordering on using their offices to confer unfair advantage on themselves, defrauding the Federal Government of over N1.3 billion and $2 million and also unlawfully issuing 1,263 tickets as complimentary offers to friends, associates, political support groups and family members.
Besides, the accused persons were also alleged to have booked the Hampshire Hotel, South Africa, being a cheap, substandard, unbefitting and an unlisted hotel among the approved list of hotels by the Federation of International football Association, FIFA, for lodging by participating teams and caused the Federal Government to pay a fine to the tune of $125,000 for a breach of contract.
The NFF's former officials, through their counsel, S. I Ameh, SAN, had challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charges brought against them by the EFCC, saying that it is only FIFA that has jurisdiction to prosecute them. All other defence counsel aligned with the position of Ameh. However, prosecution counsel, Olasupo Ashaolu, SAN, at the resumed hearing of the case yesterday opposed the two applications with a 22- paragraph counter-affidavit, praying the court to discountenance the applications of all the defence counsel on the ground that they lack merit.
Ashaolu further said the crime committed by the accused persons were committed in Nigeria and as such, 'coming to this court and saying they cannot be tried by Nigerian laws, except FIFA, is an aberration'. The prosecution counsel also faulted the argument canvassed by the accused persons to the effect that the EFCC did not seek and get the prosecutorial consent of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, before commencing trial.
According to Ashaolu, the EFCC did not need a fresh consent of the AGF to prosecute the case, as the EFCC has all the powers and right conferred on it by the Establishment Act to prosecute all economic and financial crimes.
He submitted that the applications by the accused persons are meant to delay trial. He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the applications in their entirety and allow trial to commence. The presiding judge, Justice Okorowa, having listened to arguments canvassed by all counsel, adjourned the case to February 16, 2011 for ruling.
Lulu, Uchegbulam, Ojo-Oba, and Ogunjobi were arrested by the EFCC on June 7, 2010 but granted administrative bail. They were, however, re-arrested by the commission's operatives on Monday, September 6, 2010 and arraigned on September 7.