Court shifts hearing of suit against Oshiomhole to Feb 26

JUSTICE Anwuli Chikere of the federal high court, Abuja has fixed February 26, 2019, for the hearing of the suit seeking to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to commence criminal investigation against the former governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

The case could not be heard last Thursday and the trial judge adjourned till next month to hear Oshiomhole’s motion.

An Edo State based cleric and activist, Bishop Osadolor Ochei had dragged EFCC and Oshiomhole to court, praying the court to order the EFCC to investigate different petitions that contained allegations of financial recklessness against Oshiomhole.

The anti-graft agency has, in its preliminary objections challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to compel it to arrest and prosecute Oshiomhole, over an allegation that he diverted public funds to his personal use while in office as governor.

EFCC admitted that it has received petitions accusing the All Progressives Congress (APC), National Chairman of complicity in acts of corruption, but added that it was not under any obligation to report or give an account of its investigations to any individual or under a timeline within which to carry out its functions.

The anti-graft agency, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the suit that is seeking to invoke an order of mandamus to compel it to initiate criminal proceedings against the embattled APC Chairman.

The plaintiff told the court that Oshiomhole who was sued as the 2nd Respondent, while in office as Edo state governor, procured properties far in excess of his legitimate income.

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The Bishop told the court that he sent a petition to the EFCC on November 4, 2016, where he detailed some corrupt practices he said the ex-governor was allegedly involved in.

He maintained that EFCC’s refusal to act on petitions containing “weighty allegations” against Oshiomhole, ran contrary to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which enjoined the State to abolish corrupt practices.

But the EFCC, in a preliminary objection that was signed by its team of lawyers led by the Head of its Legal and Prosecutions Department, Mr G.K. Latona, challenged the locus- standi of the Applicant to file the action.

The anti-graft agency said it has discretion on how to use its available manpower to carry out investigations into petitions submitted to it.

Besides, the Commission, in an 11-paragraph affidavit, deposed to by one of its staff, Mr. Yusuf Musa, told the court that it conducts its investigations “professionally and discreetly” before the arrest and prosecution of indicted persons.

“That Respondent is not under obligation to report or give an account of its investigations to any individual or under a timeline within which to carry out its functions,” EFCC averred and prayed the court to strike out the suit which it said lacked competency and constituted an abuse of the judicial process.

It will be recalled that Oshiomhole had also queried the powers of the court to order EFCC to prosecute him on the basis of the suit.

While acknowledging the powers of the anti-graft EFCC to probe financial and economic crimes, Oshiomhole, through his lawyer, Mr Damian Dodo, SAN, contended that the court could not okay him to be investigated on the strength of a petition he said was lodged against him since 2016.

He argued that the suit has become statute-barred, saying the Applicant ought to have instituted the action within three months after the first petition was filed against him before the EFCC.