- Category: Latest
- Published on Thursday, 05 July 2012 00:02
- Written by Admin
An Abuja High Court Wednesday held that the suspended Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market, Herman Hembe and his Deputy, Azubuogu Ifeanyi have to face trial in the two-count charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
It would be recalled that Hembe and his deputy had in their preliminary objections asked the court to quash the two-count charge on the ground that the court lacks the inherent jurisdiction to try them.
The accused persons told the court in their preliminary objection that the subject matter of the suit, is still being investigated by the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
While Hembe is challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the two-count charge preferred against him by the anti-graft agency, his Deputy and 2nd accused person is faulting the leave granted the anti-graft agency to prefer the charge against him.
The court presided over by Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar, in his ruling held that EFCC had been able to establish a prima facie case against the accused persons and added that they must face trial.
Justice Umar consequently dismissed the preliminary objections of the accused persons and said the matter will be given accelerated hearing.
The Judge adjourned till July 18th and 19th, 2012 for the arraignment of the accused persons and hearing of the matter and directed the EFCC to produce all their witnesses at the next adjourned date.
At the last hearing of the matter, Hembe’s counsel, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) informed the court of the preliminary objection he filed on May 21, urging the court to quash the charges on the ground that the court lacks the inherent jurisdiction to try his client.
Okutepa further submitted that, the counter-affidavit, which contains “extraneous facts and purports to make the EFCC a respondent in the suit”, is contrary to the Evidence Act, adding that “there is contrivance and falsity of information”.
“The prosecution is nothing but persecution and a waste of Nigeria’s public money. By virtue of Section 89 of the 1999 constitution, it is the National Assembly that has the jurisdiction to investigate this matter”, he submitted.
In aligning with Okutepa, Counsel for the 2nd accused person, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) argued that, since the report of the House’ Ethics committee is yet to be released, it will not be in the interest of justice to try the accused person, just as he argued that “the court must rely on an investigative report before trial”.
In Ikpeazu’s submission, “There is a case of inadequacy of documents and so there is no case for the 2nd accused person to answer to, especially as he sought to return the money through the Clerk of the House, only for the Director-General of SEC to ask him to keep the money, since there will be another conference.”
In citing Section 167 (b) of the Evidence Act, Ikpeazu contended that, “the prosecution is bound to produce all criminal documents to the court to warrant trial and the absence of the DG of SEC in this case exposes the complicity in it.”
In his objection, however, EFCC’s counsel, Ojeffu Ibe prayed the court to dismiss the two applications and further urged the court to determine whether the purpose for which the estacode was given was used.
He argued in his counter-affidavit that, the 1999 constitution only gave the National Assembly lawmaking powers, and not powers to investigate.
In the two counts charge brought against the House members by counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Onjefu Obe, the anti-graft agency alleged that Hembe and Azubuogu converted to their own use the sum of $4, 095, about N6, 000, 000 given to them by the SEC as traveling allowance to a conference in Dominican Republic in October, 2011.
The offence is contrary to Section 308 of the Penal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
with additional reports from Daily Independent