By Innocent Anaba, Abdulwahab Abdulah, Onozure Dania & Michael Oladepo
LAGOS — On a day Chairman of Bi-Courtney Group, Dr. Wale Babalakin, was to be arraigned before an Ikeja High Court over alleged economic crime and money laundering, a Federal High Court also in Lagos, has restrained Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from going on with the planned arraignment.
The formal arraignment of Babalakin before the Ikeja High Court over alleged fraudulent transfer of Delta State Government funds, failed following a report that he was ill. The accused was charged with the fraudulent transfer of N4.7 billion.
He was accused of transferring the sum on behalf of former Gov. James Ibori of Delta, who had been convicted of money laundering by a London court.
Babalakin was charged alongside Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Ltd., Bi-Courtney Ltd. and Renix Nigeria Ltd. EFCC preferred a 27-count charge against him and the others.
While his arraignment was playing out at the state high court, Babalakin, approached a Federal High Court, Lagos, with an ex-parte application, seeking leave to apply for prohibition and certiorari order preventing EFCC from perfecting plans to arraign him before the Lagos High Court, which was granted by the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris.
Justice Idris held that the leave, according to Order 34 Rule 3 (6) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, should operate as a stay of all actions relating to the arraignment.
The Rule states: “If the relief sought is an order of prohibition or certiorari and the judge directs, the grant shall operate as a stay of the proceedings to which the application relates until the determination of the application or until the judge otherwise orders.”
The court has, meanwhile, adjourned till December 12, to hear the application for interlocutory injunction against EFCC and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Mohammed Adoke.
At the hearing of the matter at the Lagos High Court, Okoh entered the dock to take his plea but Babalakin was absent. Babalakin’s counsel told the court that his client was on admission at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, over an undisclosed ailment. He tendered a medical report to that effect.
EFCC counsel argued that the development was a ploy by Babalakin to frustrate his arraignment, contending that the medical report was issued on the same day Babalakin met with EFCC officials in Abuja.
Trial judge, Justice Adeniji Onigbanjo, held that the claim that Babalakin was ill could be verified by the EFCC and adjourned the arraignment till December 12.
The commission said, “ It took the EFCC close to a week to get him. He was served with all the processes and released because he took an undertaking that he will appear in court for arraignment.
“We believe that, if there is a medical issue, he should have contacted us yesterday (Wednesday) rather than to confront us with this application this morning. We are disappointed by the tactics of the first defendant (Babalakin), but the court can bend backward and allow us to come back next week.”