Ex-gov faces 34-count charge April 16
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel are set to return to the legal trenches again courtesy of a court order that the agency should go ahead with the former’s trial.
Daniel’s retrial is at the instance of the Chief Judge of the Ogun State High Court, Abeokuta, Justice Olatokunbo Olopade, who granted the EFCC’s request “to prefer information against the former governor.”
Daniel had received a temporary reprieve when a High Court sitting in Abeokuta, the state capital, discharged and acquitted him of the money laundering charges filed against him by the EFCC.
The former governor was first arraigned by the EFCC in October last year for theft and diversion of billions of naira belonging to the state for his personal use.
But the court dismissed the charges because the anti-graft body did not seek its permission to amend the charges preferred against Daniel.
Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje in the ruling had declared that the EFCC failed to seek the prayer of the court “before filing the information that contained the indictable offences proffered against the defendant.”
He accused the EFCC of committing a “fundamental error for not seeking the leave of the court before filling the charges containing the indictable offenses.”
But on March 30, 2012, Justice Olopade granted the commission leave to continue the prosecution of Daniel.
The new twist in the case is contained in a statement issued yesterday by the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwajaren, who said that the court had cleared the coast for the agency to re-arraign the former governor on a 38-count charge.
According to Uwajaren, the EFCC had through its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, filed an “application for leave to prefer an information under section 340(2) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Laws of Ogun State 2006, charge No. EFCC/01/2012 Federal Republic of Nigeria vs. Otunba Justus Olugbenga Daniel.”
He said in the notice, dated March 30, 2012 and signed by the Chief Judge, the court gave the Federal Government the clearance to re-arraign Daniel.
“I hereby give my consent to the Federal Government of Nigeria to prefer an information against the above-named accused person,” the notice, according Uwajaren read.
The EFCC, Uwajaren stated had to seek the leave of the court to prefer an information against Daniel after Justice Mabekoje of the Ogun State High Court dismissed the 43-count information levelled against the former governor because the commission purportedly failed to seek the leave of the court to file the amended information.
The EFCC said with the consent given by the state chief judge, Daniel would be arraigned before Justice Mabekoje on April 16 in Abeokuta on a 38-count information that borders on abuse of office and misappropriation of public fund when he held sway as the governor of the state.
The commission which had on Wednesday lamented that the judiciary was stalling its anti-corruption crusade, specifically narrated how Justice Charles Archibong set the stage for the dismissal of its case against former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola.
It had asked Nigerians to hold judges responsible for their increasing dismissal of corruption cases against some indicted citizens over “flimsy excuses or on technical issues.”
The commission said last Monday’s dismissal of Akingbola’s case was the latest addition to the long list of aborted prosecution of corrupt Nigerians, largely by the court.
The agency said it had become clear that the courts were becoming “too involved” in the cases before them.
Justice Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos dismissed the Akingbola’s case on what he called the “negligence of prosecution” in their handling of the matter.
The EFCC had cited such “untenable excuses” allegedly given by other judges in its N40 billion case against former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, where the trial judge dismissed the case because the commission did not seek permission of the court before amending the charges.
The others are the exoneration of Senator Tony Elumelu and others in the power sector saga. The court had ruled that the evidence presented in the case failed to link Elumelu with the accusation. The others in the case however, are still to answer for the allegations.
The Halliburton bribery case, which is an inter-agency suit was lost a few weeks ago though the EFCC had said it was being handled by the Ministry of Justice.