By Innocent Anaba
Mr Francis Atuche, former Managing Director of Bank PHB, and Spring Bankâ€™s former Managing Director, Charles Ojo, have asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss the corruption charges brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Atuche and Ojo, in separate motions, are praying the trial judge in the matter, Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye, to quash the charges against them on the ground that the allegations are incompetent, frivolous and defective.
They also contend that the proof of evidence attached to the charges against them, didnâ€™t disclose any reasonable allegation against them.
For Atuche, his counsel told the court at the resumed hearing in the charge filed against him by EFCC that the EFCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had been issuing misleading press statements to poison the minds of the public against the former bank chiefs.
Atuche is further contending that he will not get fair trial considering the manner in which the matter had been conducted so far, particularly in the media, adding that the allegations against him were baseless because the EFCC failed to attach documentary evidence to substantiate the claims.
â€œFor example, the EFCC alleged that our client granted a loan and took the shares of Bank PHB as security and it is our submission that there is no crime in granting a loan and there is no crime in using the shares of the bank as security. What might be an offence is when the CBN does not approve such loan and the EFCC has failed to show that we did not get the CBNâ€™s approvalâ€, he counsel argued.
According to his counsel, â€œAtuche can not be liable to the offences committed by the bank because the bank should be in the dock and not Atucheâ€.
He argued further that the allegation that Atuche took loan using some companies was not backed with necessary documentary evidence, and that there was no basis on which the allegations could be sustained.
But EFCC counsel urged the court to dismiss the two applications, adding that the applications constituted abuse of court process.
EFCC asked the court to ignore the application seeking to restrain the CBN from issuing misleading press statements about the matter, insisting that, under the law, the court would not make injunctions against a party that is not before the court, adding â€œIf they are not happy about a particular news report, they should sue for libel or reply back through the media.â€
Meanwhile, further hearing in the matter was adjourned till February 12, 2010 for hearing of Ojoâ€™s application.
The accused persons were first arraigned on a 26-count charge bordering on criminal grant of loans, abuse of office and granting loan beyond the limit laid down by the regulations of the bank.
But the EFCC increased the charges to 45 in the amended charge, alleging that the accused persons perpetuated economic crimes to the tune of N55bn while they were directors of Bank PHB.