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N93bn fraud: Court okays ex-Gov Haruna for trial

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the nod to go ahead and prosecute the former Governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna, for allegedly pilfering over N93 billion while in office.

Justice Adamu Bello okayed the ex-governor for trial after he dismissed an application that sought to quash the entire 28-count amended charge preferred against him by the anti-graft agency.

Haruna who is facing trial alongside his former Special Assistant, Mohammed Inuwa Bassi and two others, John Babani Elias and Al-Aakin Investment Nigeria Limited, had in his application for quash, challenged the competence of the charge against him, contending that the proof of evidence tendered in court by the EFCC, failed to establish a prima-facie criminal case capable of warranting his prosecution.

Besides, he queried the jurisdiction of the trial court to try him inAbujaover an offence he said was allegedly committed inAdamawaState, even as he accused the EFCC of abusing judicial process by filing a similar suit against the 3rd accused person before a High Court inLagosState.

Describing the charge as vague and grossly lacking in substance, the former governor, via the application he filed on June 27, 2011, insisted that the evidence adduced against him by the anti-graft agency was devoid of essential ingredients to nail him to any known offence.

EFCC opposes application

Meanwhile, his application was opposed by the EFCC, which maintained that it had garnered enough evidence capable of securing his conviction, just as it urged the court to discountenance the preliminary objection and proceed with hearing the criminal case on its merit.

Ruling on the application, yesterday, Justice Bello, said he was satisfied that the former governor has a case to answer, noting that rather than address the substantive charge against him, the accused person chose to concern himself with peripheral issues bothering on jurisdiction and where ought to be the appropriate venue for  his trial.

The court held that going by the provision of Order 33 Rule 2 of the Federal High Court Procedure Rules, the EFCC has the powers to try the matter summarily without even adducing any proof of evidence, adding that under section 285(1-6) of the Criminal Procedure Act, CPA, the court has no power to quash a charge when witnesses have not been heard.

Consequently, the court dismissed contention of the former Governor that the charge against him is vague, as an after-thought, noting that he had earlier entered his plea to the supposed defective charge.

However, Justice Bello observed that in-line with section 45 of the Federal High Court Rules; the case ought to have been filed at the place where the infraction was committed, therefore, he held that the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the matter, just as he ordered that the case be transferred to Yola for continuation of trial.



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