A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed an application by four companies which pleaded guilty to laundering $15.5million allegedly belonging to former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan.
The companies — Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Transocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited — had asked the court to reverse their guilty plea and nullify the previous proceedings because those who represented the company were not authorised to do so.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned the companies alongside a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Dr Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer Amajuoyi Briggs, who is the companies' secretary, and a banker with Skye Bank Plc, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Unlike the companies, Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
The companies’ lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), told Justice Babs Kuewumi that his clients were not given a fair trial before their conviction because they had no legal representation of their choice.
Ozekhome said he was briefed to represent the companies after its directors pleaded guilty despite not being authorised by the board to do so.
Moving his motion seeking to set aside the companies conviction, Ozekhome said they were convicted “in gross violation” of the 1999 Constitution, which he said occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
He prayed that the trial be done de novo (afresh) and that the previous proceedings be declared null, void and unsustainable in law.
The application, he said, was on the ground that the court failed to pass a sentence on the convicted companies, as the judge reserved sentence until end of the other defendants’ trial.
Besides, Ozekhome said the companies were denied the right to cross-examine the purported directors who purportedly pleaded guilty.
“They’re just busybodies and interlopers who were pressured to come and plead guilty. They had no mandate to do so,” he said.
But prosecuting counsel Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court to refuse the application for being an abuse of court process.
According to Oyedepo, the application amounted to asking the judge to revisit his ruling and to assume the position of an appellate court.
He denied that the directors who pleaded guilty were not authorised to do so, saying there was evidence that they were indeed the company directors — from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and from the companies’ bank accounts.
At Tuesday's proceedings, the companies were represented by Mr. Oluigbo O, who hold the brief of Chief Mike Ozakhome (SAN), Mr. Ademola Adefolaju, who stood in for Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), for Dudafa, and Ige Asemudara, who represented Briggs.
Ruling on the application, Justice Kuewumi held that a lower can only reserve himself in exceptional cases where there is “a serious procedural irregularity” or where the court lacks jurisdiction.
“The main issue to be addressed in this application is whether this court can revisit its earlier decision whereby the applicants were convicted. Once a court gives an order or judgment, it has no legal competence to reverse itself or set aside its previous order," the judge held.
“Considering the circumstances of this case, I have not been shown any valid reason to make me revisit my decision. This court is already functus officio. I’m in agreement with the prosecution that this application is incompetent. It is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed."
The matter has been adjourned until October 17 for hearing.