The application of two oil marketers to have the fraud charges preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was quashed yesterday by a Lagos High Court in Ikeja.
Aro Bamidele and Abiodun Bankole? alongside their company, A.B.S Investment Company Ltd. are alleged to have been involved with N1.3 billion fuel subsidy charges.
They allegedly obtained the money from the federal government for the purported importation of 30 million litres of Premium Motor Spirits.
Justice Lateefah Okunnu while ruling on a Notice of Preliminary Objection filed by their counsel, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN),held that it was lacking in merit.
The judge dismissed Idigbe’s arguments that the charges against his clients were incompetent because the EFCC failed to obtain a fiat from the Attorney General of Lagos State.
She held that the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation were empowered to prosecute criminal offences under state laws even without a fiat from the state Attorney- General.
She stated: “ Section 211 (1) of the Constitution allows for circumstances in which any other body other than the Attorney-General can institute criminal proceedings against a person.
“The EFCC Act which is an Act of the National Assembly also empowers the agency to prosecute criminal matters under a state law.”
Justice Okunnu held that the EFCC Act and the Constitution were superior to the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2011. She dismissed the argument by the defence that the EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) was not competent to prosecute the defendants.
The judge held that the anti-graft agency was at liberty to engage the services of private persons in prosecuting its matters with or without a fiat from the state attorney general.
The judge refused to strike out counts 5 to 18 in the charge which Idigbe had claimed were brought under a repealed law.
“The alleged offences were committed before the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 came into effect.
“It is only proper that they are charged with the law that was in force and that is the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003.
“The defendants will be prosecuted under the law that was in force at the time the alleged offences were committed in the interest of fair hearing”.
The judge further held that the charges which were signed by one Mr L.A. Yusuf on behalf of the EFCC chairman were competent and proper before the court.
She said: “I find therefore that this preliminary objection is premature and lacking in merit.
“It is hereby overruled and stands dismissed”.
The matter was adjourned to May 20 for commencement of trial.