Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja on July 9, 2013 adjourned ruling on the “no case submission” by the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin and four others in a case of conspiracy to commit felony, corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action and retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct to the tune of N4. 7 Billion.
Babalakin was arraigned by the EFCC, alongside Alex Okoh and three companies: Stabilini Vision Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited on January 17, 2013, on a 27-count criminal charge.
At the resumed hearing today,
Counsel to Babalakin, A. A. Layonu (SAN) informed the court that the first defendant was not present in court due to a serious health challenge. Justice Onigbanjo enquired if Babalakin was within the court premises and his counsel replied that he was within the vicinity of the court but could not attend the sitting owing to a mobility challenge that would require the use of a wheel chair for him to be brought into the court room.
Tayo Olukotun, who held brief for Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the prosecution was not informed about Babalakin’s absence until the defence counsel told the court.
Justice Onigbanjo then adjourned ruling on the no case submission to September 23, 2013.
At the last adjourned date, counsel to all the five defendants prayed the court to quash the charge against their clients on the grounds that the fiat which gave the EFCC powers to prosecute the defendants was issued under a law that had been repealed. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, in a motion on notice dated January 17, 2013 said the first defendant was applying to quash counts 1 to 12 of the charges against him before the court. According to him, the fiat issued by the Attorney General of Lagos State in 2004 on which basis the prosecution preferred the charges had become obsolete as the Criminal Procedure Law 2003 which was relied on in granting the fiat has been repealed.
Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, who appeared for the second defendant also informed the court about an application dated January 20, 2013 and a written address of same date, in which he prayed the court to quash the charges against his client. Like the first defendant’s counsel, Oyetibo also challenged the use of the fiat to institute the case, adding that the proof of evidence did not support the charge against his client
However, Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, in a counter-affidavit dated February 12, 2013 told the court to disregard that Babalakin’s counsel submissions that the fiat used to initiate charges against his client was obsolete and so was unreliable. According to him, “it is not the Criminal Justice Law that governs who can prosecute criminal cases in Lagos state but sections 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution.”
This section, he argued, did not give a monopoly right to institute a criminal suit against any person to the Attorney General of the Federation or the Attorney General of a State; adding that other agencies such as the EFCC, the Police, and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have powers to prefer criminal charges against anyone in any court of law within the Federation.