EFCC Opposes Transfer Of Atiku’s Lawyer Money Laundering Charge to Another Judge
The scheduled re-arraignment of lawyer to Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, the Presidential candidate of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 general election, Mr.
Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie, for alleged money laundering charge, before a Federal High Court, Lagos, today, was stalled due to opposition raised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for taking over the case by another judge.
Uyiepken, a senior counsel in a law firm, Africa Law Practices (ALP) and his younger brother, Erhunse, are being tried before the court by the EFCC for allegedly laundered the sum of $2 million USD.
They were first arraigned before Justice Nicholas Oweibo on August 14, during the court long vacation on three counts charge of conspiracy and money.
The offences they had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Upon resumption from the vacation, they were rearraigned before Justice Chuka Obiozor, on the same counts charge.
But when their trial was about to commenced before Justice Obiozor, their lawyers, Ahmed Raji and Norrison Quakers, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), brought and application before the court for the consolidation of the charge with that of Atiku’s son-in-law, Abdullahi Babalele, who is being tried before Justice Aneke’s court.
Babalele is also standing trial before Justice Aneke, for allegedly laundered the sum of $140, 000 USD.
Giwa-Osagies’ lawyer had told Justice Obiozor that a letter had been written to the Court’s Chief Registrar, for the consolidation of the charge with Babalele.
After their plea was taken, Justice Obiozor, returned the case file to the court’s registry and it was subsequently reassigned to Justice Aneke.
At the resumed hearing of the matter today, which was scheduled for re-arraignment of the two brothers, EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court that his attention was drawn to the application written to the Court’s Administration Judge by Osagie-Giwas’ counsel for consolidation of their charge with that of Alhaji Atiku’s son in-law, Babalele. Adding that his commission is protesting such consolidation.
He said: “we are protesting that, we have written a letter to Honourable C. J. for reassignment of the case to the former judge.
“There is nothing connecting the case pending before this court and this case. It is going to be dangerous things if we allow this.
“During the vacation, two cases were assigned to Justice Obiozor, this one and that of Professor Maurice Iwu, but they were transferred.
Oyedepo also told the court that a letter has been written to the Court’ Chief Judge, to reassigned the charge back to Justice Obiozor.
He therefore urge the court to adjourned the matter, so that it can be reassigned to the former judge.
Responding, Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), counsel to the defendants, described Oyedepo’s statement as ‘offensive and out of tune”.
He said: “I find the statement of the prosecutor a bit offensive and put of tune.
“The court will recalled that the matter was transfered based on rule of court and by the Administrative Judge, who in his wisdom transfered the matter based on the connection in the prove of evidence served on us.
“Having consolidated the two charges, all the counsel have to come before this court”.
In support his submission, Quakers (SAN) cited the case of O.L.G.C and AISHB, Part 3, Nigerian Weekly Law Report, 2008, which he said once an Administrative Judge has exercised his judicial power, the business of the counsel is to come before the court.
Quakers (SAN) also told the court that the prosecution has not presented any thing before the court challenging the transfer of the charge.
He therefore urges the court to discountenance the prosecutor’s argument for the request for adjournment.
Responding on point of law, the EFCC lawyer, Oyedepo cited section 89 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, which he said the decision cited by the defendants’ counsel does not nexus with.
“The charge has no nexus, the transfer is not in the interest of justice, no panel was constituted and I wasn’t invited to any panel.
“I urged the court to return the case file to the C.J. for reassignment to the former judge”.
However, Quakers (SAN) told the court that section 89 of ACJA cited by the prosecutor was not applicable and there was no allegations against the person of Justice Obiozor.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, after listened to submissions of both parties, adjourned till Thursday, January 16, for ruling.
Tje two Osagie-Giwa were dragged before the court in a charge numbered number FHC/L/283c/19, wherein they were both alleged to have on February 12, 2019, conspired among themselves and make cash payment of the sum of $2 million USD, without going through financial institutions.
Uyiekpen a senior counsel in Africa Law Practices (ALP) Law firm, was alleged to have procure his brother, Erhunse, make the cash payment of the said sum without recourse to financial institutions.
The offences according to the prosecuting agency, EFCC, contravened 18(c), 18(a), 1(a), 16(1), (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16, 16(2)(b)16(2)(b) of the same Act.
The count one of the charges against the Osagie’s brothers read: “that you Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie and Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, sometimes in February, 2019 in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired to commit an offence to wit: making cash payment of the sum of $2,000,000.00 (Two Million United State Dollars) without going through financial institution which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a), and 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
Count two: “that you Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie on or before the 12th day of February, 2019 in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, procured Erhunse Giwa-Osagie to make cash payment of the sum of $2,000,000.00 (Two Million United State Dollars) without going through financial institution, which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
And count three reads: “that you Erhunse Giwa-Osagie sometimes in February, 2019 In Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court made the payment of the sum of $2,000,000.00 (Two Million United State Dollars) without going through financial institution, which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Sections 1(a) & 16(1)(d) of the Money Laundering(Prohibition) Act, 2011 (As Amended) and Punishable under section 16 of the Same Act”.