Justice Lateef Lawal Akapo of the Lagos State High Court, today February 17, 2016, dismissed a joint application filed by the trio of Mahmud Tukur, Abdullahi Alao, Ochonoghor Alex and their companies Eterna Plc and Axenergy seeking to quash the charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The accused persons have through their counsel, Paul Uboma, Ademola Owolabi and Segun Olarinde filed applications challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
The accused persons argued that the State High Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the matter since the allegations against them are oil and gas related and that only the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter. The accused persons also alleged that the prosecution failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.
The prosecution counsel in his response relied on judgement delivered by Justice Okunnu which was also upheld by the court of appeal in the case of Walter Wagbatsama versus the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Ontario Oil and Gas versus the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On the issue of prima-facie case, the prosecution argued that the application was premature at this stage. He also cited a previous ruling on a similar application delivered on the 27th June 2014 by the trial court.
Justice Akapo in his ruling upheld the argument of the prosecution and dismissed the applications of the defence. On the issue of prima facie, the judge also dismissed the application as he said the application was premature.
The accused persons are being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly diverting the sum of Three Billion, One Hundred Twenty One Million, Three hundred Ninety Three Thousand, Ninety eight Naira (N3,121,393,098) fraudulently obtained from the Federal Government for the purpose of importing Premium Motor Spirit. They were arraigned on the 10th day of December 2015 before the same court and they all pleaded not guilty.
The case was subsequently adjourned to 11th, 13th, 18th, 19th and 20th April, 2016 for the commencement of trial.
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