By Austin Ogwuda
ASABAâ€”JUSTICE Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Asaba, yesterday, turned down an application from the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, seeking to prevent the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from arresting him.
He declared that there was no sufficient material to warrant granting such an application.
Ruling on an application filed by Iboriâ€™s lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Dawodu, SAN, Justice Buba stated: â€œIt is clear that the order, whether preservative, interim or interlocutory can not be granted to protect the legal right of the applicant, therefore, at this stage, without any material before the court with which it can use without going into the substantive matter to show that the applicant has a legal right and to show that the respondents,Â EFCC, are acting ultra varies beyond their powers.
â€œIt will be premature at this stage to make any order on the basis of the oral application without materials before the court. I, therefore, decline to make a preservatory order, and nothing stops the applicant from filing a formal application.â€
Dawodu had urged the court to make a preservatory order to protect Ibori from attempted arrest and further harassment by EFCC and other security operatives, in view of the fact that the matter was before the court.
But counsel to EFCC, Mr. Charles Okoroma, urged the court to reject the oral application, which he said amounted to shielding Ibori from being arrested to face criminal investigation and prosecution.
Maintaining that â€œno body can be insulatedâ€, Okoroma argued that the application â€œdoes not hold water.â€
Also opposing the application, Abubakar Balarabi Mahmud, SAN, representing the first, third and fourth respondents -Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector-General of Police and the Director, State Security Services, said: â€œThere is no basisÂ for that order, the issue is not one of safe guarding the jurisdiction of the court. There is no legal enforceable right called that right against arrest. No body has the right not be arrested; the court can not issue a blanket order not to be arrested.â€
He noted that â€œSection 214 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes the powers and duties of the police to prevent crime, investigate crime and apprehend offenders, which is applicable to all the generalities of Nigerians.
â€œThe court cannot be asked to prevent or stop this statutory body from performing their duties and functions in the society. It is outside the scope of the jurisdiction of this court.â€
Meanwhile, the case has been adjourned to 10th May, 2010, for further hearing.
EFCC’s suit against Ibori stalled
Meantime, the appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against the judgment of the Federal High Court in Asaba, which absolved Chief James Ibori, of any wrong doing in the 170-count charge brought against him by the commission, yesterday, suffered a setback at the Court of Appeal in Benin as the appellate court declined to entertain the suit.
The courtâ€™s five-man Electoral Appeal Panelâ€™s decision followed the observation made by Counsel to Chief Ibori, Mr. Augustine Alege, SAN, that the matter was a criminal one which should go before the regular appeal court.
As soon as the matter was mentioned for hearing, Mr. Alege observed: â€œThis is a criminal case which should ordinarily go the regular Court of Appeal. We do not know why we are here because the panel is to hear election petitions. We are not aware of any complaints that would necessitate the hearing of the case by the panel.â€
Following his observation, EFCCâ€™s counsel, Mr. Ibrahim Ishaku, SAN, while urging the court to hear the case, said there was only one Court of Appeal in the country, adding that the court was competent to hear the appeal.
He said: â€œWe believe the panel is competent to hear the application. It is only an application. We are not going into the substantive matter yet.â€
But the court in its ruling delivered by the Chairman of the Electoral Panel, Justice M.B. Dongban-Mesen, agreed with the EFCCâ€™s counsel that there was one Court of Appeal in the country. He, however, said the matter before the court was a criminal matter.
The court also agreed with the submission of Chief Iboriâ€™s counsel that the case ought to have been taken by the regular Court of Appeal, adding â€œthis panel is not set up for this application.â€
Consequently, it ruled: â€œWe shall refrain from taking the application. The application shall be taken by the regular court.â€