By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday, challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate and prosecute him over an allegation that he diverted public funds to his personal use.
Oshiomhole, who briefed a consortium of six lawyers led by Mr. Damian Dodo, SAN, to file a memorandum of conditional appearance on his behalf, further queried the competence of the suit seeking to invoke an order of mandamus to compel EFCC to initiate criminal proceedings against him.
While acknowledging the powers of the EFCC to probe financial and economic crimes, Oshiomhole, insisted that the court could not okay him to be investigated on the strength of a petition he said was lodged against him since 2016.
He argued that the suit that was lodged against him by Edo State based cleric, Bishop Osadolor Ochei, has become statute barred.
According to him, the Applicant, ought to have instituted the action within three months after the first petition was filed against him before the EFCC.
The APC Chairman noted that the cleric first wrote a letter to the EFCC on October 28, 2016, drawing its attention to the allegations of financial misappropriation he made against him.
He told the court that the Applicant wrote another letter that was received by the anti-graft agency on December 13, 2016, reminding it of his pending petition that was allegedly not acted upon by the EFCC.
“The action of the 1st Respondent (EFCC) which is being subjected to review by the instant proceedings for Judicial Review, last occurred on December, 2016, while the proceeding for Judicial Review was commenced on 13th June 2018, eighteen months after the occurrence of the alleged failure being complained about.
“The suit is statute-barred by virtue of the facts stated above and the Applicant/Respondent’s right of action (if any) has become unenforceable”, Oshiomhole contended
Besides, he challenged the locus-standi of the Applicant to file the suit against him.
He maintained that the Applicant failed to show how actions he took while in office as Governor, “affected him over and above other residents and indigenes of Edo State”.
“This Honourable Court is robbed of jurisdiction to entertain this suit for failure of the Applicant/Respondent to commence this action within the time provided by extant rules of this Honourable Court and/or for failure to disclose locus standi to institute the action”, Oshiomhole added.
Meantime, the EFCC, which was cited as the 1st Respondent in the matter, on Monday, shunned the suit.
When the matter was called up, counsel to the Applicant, Dr. West Idahosa, notified the court that EFCC was duly served with all the relevant processes.
Idahosa, however, applied for a short adjournment to enable him to respond to the notice of preliminary objection that Oshomhole filed to challenge the suit.
He told the court that the objection was served on him shortly before the case was called up for hearing.
Consequently, Justice Anwuli Chikere shifted hearing on the matter till November 19.
The judge had on October 9, directed that relevant processes in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2018, should be served on both EFCC and Oshiomhole within five days.
The court made the order after it heard an ex-parte motion urging it to declare that EFCC has a statutory duty to investigate different petitions that contained allegations of financial recklessness against the former governor of Edo State.
Specifically, the Applicant alleged that Oshiomhole, who was sued as the 2nd Respondent, while in office as Edo State governor, acquired properties in the United States of America, South Africa and Dubai, worth billions of U.S. dollars and far in excess of his legitimate income.
He alleged before the court that the ex-governor built a sprawling mansion worth more than N10billion in his home town known as Iyamho, while in office.
According to the applicant, “The said building was constructed by Verissimo, a South African architectural outfit. The said house of the 2nd Respondent has swimming pools, water fountains, multiple theatres for cinema and live performances, huge event halls, bridges, man made lake, and lodges of different sizes, among others.
“The said cost of building the mansion is well outside the 2nd Respondent’s legitimate income. The 2nd Respondent’s lifestyle and extent of the said property were not justified by his source of income”.
The applicant told the court that he had on November 4, 2016, sent a petition to the EFCC, detailing some corrupt practices he said the ex-governor was involved in.
He maintained that EFCC’s refusal to act on petitions containing “weighty allegations” against Oshiomhole, ran contrary to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which enjoined the state to abolish corrupt practices.