By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Federal Government, yesterday, approached the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court, asking it to okay the former Group Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, for prosecution over his alleged involvement in a N364 billion fraud.
While urging the appellate court to hold that there was enough prima-facie evidence to warrant the prosecution of the accused person, Federal Government described the decision of trial Justice Charles Efanga Archibong to quash the 26-count charge preferred against Akingbola by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as “perverse.”
It will be recalled that Justice Archibong had on April 2, dismissed the case against the former Intercontinental Bank Plc boss for want of diligent prosecution by the anti-graft agency.
However, in the appeal it filed yesterday, the Federal Government pleaded the appellate court to set aside the entire decision of Justice Archibong, as well as, issue an order remitting the case to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta for re-assignment to another judge for retrial on merit.
In its four grounds of appeal, the Federal Government contended that the trial Judge erred in law when he proceeded to dismiss the criminal charge without affording the EFCC the opportunity to be heard.
It further claimed that the decision of the lower court on the dismissal of the case did not emanate from any of the applications pending before the trial judge.
Besides, the appellant maintained that the Judge failed to invite parties in the case to address him and that the decision to strike out the criminal case constituted a violation of the prosecution’s rights to fair hearing.
In the particulars of errors raised against the Judge, the Federal Government claimed that it had on September 2, 2011, through the EFCC, asked Justice Archibong to disqualify or excuse himself from the case on the fear of likelihood of bias
It averred that rather than disqualifying himself, the Judge went ahead to hear the case even when a notice of appeal had been filed against his refusal to hands-off the case.
Therefore, it faulted claims of the Judge that the case was not diligently prosecuted, noting that the record of the court did not substantiate such allegation.
It equally argued that at the time the Judge struck out the case against Akingbola, a valid appeal case already pending before a higher court, thus reducing the action of the trial judge to judicial rascality.
Meantime, no date has been fixed for hearing of the appeal.
Specifically, the trial judge had in his judgment on April 2, insisted that the prosecution team was “a drain to the public purse, a fact the AGF should be mindful of now if he was not before. This prosecution team has chosen to pursue a campaign to scandalise the court, which amounts to serious and professional incompetence in the prosecution of the accused.”
He said, “This prosecution team or any part of it shall not be given further audience in this court in relation to the charges against the accused either before this presiding judge or any other judge of the Federal High Court, for the reason I have given in the foregoing.