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EFCC urges Court of Appeal to relist discharged Judge for trial

By Chinyere Omeire [NAN]

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed a notice of appeal for the Court of Appeal to relist the case against  Mohammed Yunusa.

The judge was recently discharged for alleged bribery, for trial.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja had in a ruling on Jan. 25 discharged Yunusa of the bribery charge, citing a Dec. 23, 2020 letter by the National Judicial Council (NJC) which lifted the suspension slammed on him in July 2016.

The EFCC Prosecutor, Mr. Wahab Shittu, called 10 witnesses with only about two more to be presented before the court struck out Yunusa’s name off the charge and ordered his co-defendant, Esther Agbo, to continue facing trial.

The commission not satisfied with the trial court’s ruling, however, filed a notice of appeal to challenge it at the Court of Appeal in Lagos.

The anti-corruption agency raised three grounds of appeal in their notice of appeal made available to news men on Thursday, Feb. 4.

The EFCC prayed for an order to set aside the order of the trial court striking out the name of the first respondent (Yunusa) and discharging him from the information.

The agency also sought for an order directing the trial court to relist and restore the name of Yunusa as the first defendant in the Information before the trial court.

The anti-graft agency said the trial judge’s ruling attempted to confer immunity on Yunusa as a judicial officer even when the Constitution did not grant such immunity to judges.

EFCC’s prosecutor quoted the trial judge as saying in her ruling, “Upon the application of Mr. J. A Odubela (SAN), and the document tendered, admitted and marked as Exhibit A2, the first defendant having been recalled on the recommendation of the NJC as a sitting judicial officer of the federation, hence immune from criminal proceedings.”

The commission, however, faulted the ruling by arguing that Section 308 of the Constitution confers immunity from criminal prosecution on only serving President, Vice- President, as well as governors and deputy governors of state, and not on any other persons or authorities.

He added that section 153(1), paragraph 21(b) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution “does not give rise to the interpretation that a criminal allegation against a judge must be first disposed of by the NJC before criminal proceedings against a judicial officer can be initiated by the state.

“The exercise of criminal prosecutorial powers by the state is derived from constitutional and statutory provisions”.

NAN reports that Yunusa was a serving judge at the Enugu Division of the Federal High Court when he was in July 2016 suspended by the NJC pending President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the council’s recommendation for his compulsory retirement.

No date has been fixed for the appeal hearing. (NAN)

 

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