N243m INEC Fraud: Court dismisses application challenging jurisdiction

Justice Fadawu Umar of the Borno State High Court, Maiduguri on November 13, 2018 dismissed an application filed by Kabir Bello and Musa Buba Amshi challenging the jurisdiction of the court to try them, and the power of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to prosecute them.

Bello, a retired Assistant Director, Public Affairs Directorate of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is alleged to have connived with Jumai Lawal and Amshi (serving officials of INEC) to collect slush funds from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election. They are facing an amended six-count charge for the offence of “criminal conspiracy to procure benefits for public officers and corrupt receipt of monetary benefits”.

Zanna Hamza, counsel to the defendants had on October 24, 2017 raised an objection citing sections 138 (1b), 149, 150(1&2) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended respectively.
He said: “My lord, Section 149 of the Electoral Act says, the Commission (INEC) shall consider any recommendation made to it by a tribunal with respect to the prosecution of any person for any offence disclosed in any election petition.”

Hamza argued that the charges against his clients were “not based on election petition”.

Prosecuting counsel, Khalid Sanusi, however countered the argument stating that: “According to section 138 (1b) of the Electoral Act, a candidate can question the validity of the election by reasons of corrupt practices after the election. We are not questioning the election, therefore the said section is not relevant.”

Sanusi urged the court to take judicial notice of the offence charged under the ICPC Act 2000, which gives jurisdiction to the High court to try offences provided in section 6(3).

Furthermore, he added that the prosecution was also based on  section 7(2f) of the EFCC Establishment Act, 2004.

While delivering his ruling, Justice Umar held that: “From the brief of facts filed, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is not challenging the validity of the election of 2015. Therefore, the court has jurisdiction to determine the case.”

The trial judge, thereafter ordered the defendants to open their defence on November 30, 2018