Lagos – A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday dismissed an application by former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, seeking to reverse a guilty plea of four companies charged with him.
Dudafa is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alongside two others; Amajuoyi Briggs and Adedamola Bolodeoku, and four companies, over alleged $15.5 million fraud.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi, in his ruling, described Dudafa’s application as an abuse of court process and therefore dismissed it.
The accused were arraigned by the EFCC on Sept. 15.
The four companies joined in the charge are Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd; Seagate Property Development Co. Ltd; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd.
Dudafa and the two other accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges, while the four companies pleaded guilty to the charges.
The companies admitted that they conspired with Dudafa and others to launder the $15.5 million.
The guilty plea taken by the four companies was entered on their behalf by four individuals, who were registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission as directors in the companies.
One Friday Davies pleaded guilty on behalf of the fourth accused company, Agbo Baro, for the fifth accused company; Bioghowri Frederick, for the sixth accused company, and Taiwo Ebenezer for the seventh accused company.
Following their guilty plea, the court had adjourned for the EFCC to review the facts of the case after which the judge would determine the fate of the companies.
Meanwhile, Dudafa and Briggs, through their lawyers, Messrs Gboyega Oyewole and Tochukwu Onyiuke, respectively, had filed two separate applications.
The two lawyers urged the court to change the plea of the companies from guilty to not guilty.
Oyewole argued that there was no document before the court to prove that Davies, Baro, Fredrick and Ebenezer were authorised by the companies to take a plea on their behalf.
He told the court that the four persons, in their statements to the EFCC, stated that they were neither director of the companies nor had anything to do with the companies.
Oyewole also urged the court to note that there was a fundamental right suit filed by the wife to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
He said that in the suit, Patience claimed ownership of the $15.5 million over which his client was being prosecuted.
“Neither the Federal Government nor any of its agencies; or state nor its agencies claimed ownership of the fund, nor that it was stolen from them,” Oyewole added.
He argued that allowing the guilty plea by the companies and convicting them of money laundering charges would amount to an attack on the principle of fairness and justice.
This, Oyewole further argued, became obvious in the face of Patience’s claim.
He said his client was afraid that the guilty plea entered by the four companies would adversely affect him since the proceedings were joint proceedings and the first count bordered on conspiracy.
On his own part, Onyiuke challenged the jurisdiction and competence of Justice Kuewumi to entertain the arraignment of the four companies in the first place.
The lawyer said that accepting the guilty plea of the companies who admitted that they conspired with his client to launder the money would occasion a miscarriage of justice against his client.
In response, EFCC’s counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to throw out the two applications, which he described as an abuse of court processes.
Oyedepo argued that it was too late for Briggs to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charges after the defendants had submitted themselves and had been arraigned.
He said that the accounts were opened pursuant to documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission, where Davies, Baro, Fredrick and Ebenezer were registered as directors in the companies.
EFCC’s counsel submitted that the applications by Dudafa and Briggs were intended to annoy the Federal Government, the complainant in the case and urged the judge to dismiss them.
In his ruling, Justice Kuewumi dismissed the applications by Dudafa and Briggs.
The court noted that Dudafa had already gone before the Court of Appeal to challenge the guilty plea entered by the four companies.
Kuewumi said that he could no longer take a decision on the issue, same having been taken before the Court of Appeal.
“Once an issue is pending in the Court of Appeal, it will be inappropriate for a lower court to pronounce anything on the same issue.
“The instant application constitutes an abuse of court process; same is hereby dismissed,” the judge held.
The court adjourned the case to Nov. 2, for EFCC to open its case.