The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday asked Justice Danlami Senchi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Jabi, Abuja, to dismiss an application brought by the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, seeking an order to vacate a warrant of arrest order issued against him and five others in April, 2019 by the judge.
Others are former Minister for Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete, Ralph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujjato Stefano and Burrato Sebastiano.
The defendants are being charged by the EFCC, for alleged fraudulent allocation of Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 245 and OPL 214, and conspiracy, money laundering to the tune of $1.2 billion, forging of bank accounts, bribery and corruption against Malabu oil and Gas Ltd, Shell Nigeria Ultra deep (SNUD), Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE).
The judge had on April 17, 2019 ordered the arrest warrant for failure of the defendants to appear before the court to answer charges preferred against them by the anti-graft agency.
At the resumed hearing of the case today, Counsel to Ralph Wetzel, Opasanya Oluseyi, SAN, challenged the jurisdiction of the court on the ground that the counsels for the defendants have not been duly served.
According to Oluseyi, there was no dispute that the charges have not been served, and that the effect of none serving of the charges robs the court the jurisdiction to try the case or make an order. He added that unless the originating process is served on the defendant, the judge cannot entertain the matter.
The defence counsel also told the court that his client has not been residing in Nigeria since September 2016, and that the charges were filed in 2017, adding that there was no evidence to show that the defendant is being tried by any court or investigated by any government agency in Nigeria as at 2016.
He, therefore, urged the court to uphold the application of the defendant and disallow the action and inaction to scare away foreign investors from Nigeria by dismissing the warrant of arrest placed on his client.
Also, Ikoli George Anthony, SAN, counsel to Dan Etete, (a.k.a Duazia Louya Etete), adopted the arguments canvassed by Oluseyi and told the court that there must be proof that the EFCC complied with strict compliance of the court. He argued that if EFCC fails to comply with the court, the court will be robbed of the procedural right.
Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Counsel to Adoke, while also relying on the arguments canvassed by other counsels, prayed the court to set aside the bench warrant, adding that his client has been outside Nigeria since 2015. He also argued that the issue of his client running away does not arise because his client is studying his PHD.
In the same vein, Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN, representing Casula Roberto, Pujato Stefano and Burrato Sebastiano also adopted the entirety of the arguments by his learned colleagues and added that his clients have not been served and equally asked the court to set aside the warrant of arrest on them.
The prosecution counsel, Aliyu Yusuf, while responding on the issues raised by the defence, queried them on how they come to know about the charges. He referred to Section 113 of the ACJA 2015, “A court may issue a summons or arrest warrant as provided in this Act to compel the appearance before it of a suspect accused of having committed an offence in any place whether within or outside Nigeria, in a state or in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”, said.
He added that Section 114 of the ACJA 2015 provides so many ways one can come to court and none of the Section overrides the other.
Yusuf argued that any defendant who fails to show up in court cannot challenge the competence of the charge or the jurisdiction of the court adding that the court should refuse the prayers of the defendants. According to him, to dismiss the application will amount to abuse of court process.
He urged the court to uphold that the request for stay of execution of warrant of arrest is not provided by the provisions in ACJA 2015.
After listening to all the counsels, Justice Senchi told the counsels that a new date will be communicated to give ruling on the matter.