Court dismisses Akpobolokemi’s objection to its jurisdiction

Patrick Akpobolokemi

Patrick Akpobolokemi

Justice Adebiyi holds that offence of stealing is clearly open for trial by the high court

A Lagos High Court, sitting in Igbosere, yesterday dismissed the preliminary objections filed by former Director-General of Nigeria Maritime Administration Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and two others, challenging the jurisdiction of a Lagos high court, in a suit instituted against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The former NIMASA boss and others, were alleged to have stolen over N754, 740,680.00 million belonging to NIMASA.

Akpobolokemi was arraigned before Justice Raliat Adebiyi, alongside Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan, Vincent Udoye, Captain Adegboyega Sahib Olopoenia, and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited, on a 13-count charge bordering on stealing the money belonging to NIMASA.

He had through his counsel, Dr. Joseph Nwobike, filed a notice of preliminary objection, dated February 12, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.

In his argument, only the Federal High Court has exclusive jurisdiction, over matters and causes arising from, pertaining to, and or is connected with the revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria and its agencies.

Nwobike hinged his argument on the provisions of Section 251 (1) (a) and (3) of the Constitution.
The 4th defendant, Governor Amechee Juan, through his counsel, Ige Asemudara, also filed a similar application.

However, Justice Adebiyi, dismissed all the objections raised by the applicants on the ground that they lacked merit.

The court held that the applicants wrongly raised the issue of double jeopardy, as there was no connection between the two charges filed against some of the defendants at both the Federal High Court and high court of Lagos State.

Justice Adebiyi also held that the offence of stealing is clearly open for trial by the high court, and that it would be too early at this stage of proceedings, to determine whether the Lagos High Court lacked jurisdiction to determine the suit.

The judge further contended that issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any stage of the proceeding, and would be determined on its merit, noting that the applicants cannot rely on the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Bode George vs. Federal government.

The court stated that the conviction of Bode George was upturned because the offence on which he was convicted was unknown to law, and not because the Lagos High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.

The applicants had in their preliminary objections argued that the provisions of section 251 (1) (a), (P) and (3) of the Constitution supersedes the provisions of the criminal code laws of Lagos state 2011 and that of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act, 2004.

In its counter affidavit, the EFCC urged the court to refuse the application in the interest of justice, especially as there is proof of evidence before the court linking the accused to the alleged offence.

The matter has been adjourned till April 14 and 20 for trial.

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