Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday declined to reverse the guilty plea of four companies which were allegedly used to laundering $15.5 million allegedly belonging to former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan.
Justice Kuewumi, held that the application filed by the convicted companies seeking a plea reversal is incompetent and lacking in merit.
It will be recalled that the companies had through their representatives, pleaded guilty on September 15, 2016 to the charge of money laundering, and were convicted by the judge.
The companies are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned them with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Bur Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku had pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge brought against them.
However, in the application filed on their behalf by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), they are claiming that they were not given a fair trial before their conviction because they had no legal representation of their choice.
Ozekhome had submitted that he was briefed to represent the companies after its directors pleaded guilty despite not being authorised by the board to do so.
Moving his motion seeking to set aside the companies conviction, lawyer argued they were convicted “in gross violation” of the 1999 Constitution, which he said occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
He therefore asked that the trial be done de novo (afresh) and that the previous proceedings be declared null, void and unsustainable in law.
Besides, Ozekhome said the companies were denied the right to cross-examine the directors who purportedly pleaded guilty.
“They’re just busybodies and interlopers who were pressured to come and plead guilty. They had no mandate to do so,” he said.
However, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court to refuse the application for being an abuse of court process.
He said prayer amounted to asking the judge to revisit his ruling and to assume the position of an appellate court.
Oyedepo denied that the directors who pleaded guilty were not authorised, saying there was evidence from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and from the companies’ bank accounts that they were indeed directors.
While delivering his ruling on Tuesday, Justice Kuewumi held that a judge can only revisit his rulings and judgments in exceptional cases of “serious procedural irregularity” or lack of jurisdiction.
He held, “The main issue to be addressed in this application is whether this court can revisit its earlier decision whereby the applicants were convicted. Once a court gives and order or judgment, it has no legal competence to reverse itself or set aside its previous order.
“Considering the circumstances of this case, I have not been shown any valid reason to make me revisit my decision.
“This court is already functus officio (without authority over the subject-matter).
“I’m in agreement with the prosecution that this application is incompetent. It is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed,” he stated.
Justice Kuewumi adjourned until October 17 for continuation of trial.
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