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N1.6bn Fraud: Court Orders Ex-Jonathan’s Aide, Dudafa, Others To Open Defence

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A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered a former senior special assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, and one Iwejuo Joseph Nna, who are standing trial before the court on alleged N 1. 6 billion fraud to open their defence in the case.

The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris gave the order after dismissing the applications filed by the two defendants, questioning the jurisdiction of the judge to continue with the case.

Dudafa and his co-accused had in separate motions filed through their lawyers, Gboyega Oyewole (SAN) and Ige Asemudara respectively, argued that the elevation of Justice Idris to the Court of Appeal, has robbed him of the jurisdiction to continue with the hearing of the matter.

In their arguments before the court, the defence lawyers maintained that the fiat given to the judge by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, to continue with the hearing of the matter pursuant to Section 396 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), violates Section 253 of the Constitution.

Six substantial questions of law on the interpretation and application of the Constitution were also formulated by Nna’s lawyer, Ige Asemudara.

These included: “Whether the Constitution of the Federal High Court by a Justice of the Court of Appeal does not offend the provisions of Section 253 of the Constitution and robs the Federal High Court so constituted of its jurisdiction over the charge pending before it.

“Whether the issuing of fiat by the Honourable President of the Court of Appeal to a Justice of the Court of Appeal to preside and continue to adjudicate on matters upon which only the Federal High Court has jurisdiction does not violate Sections 36 (1), 239, 240 and 251 of the Constitution and tinkered with the independence of the Federal High Court.

“Whether the provisions of Section 396 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 conflicts with the provisions of Section 253 of the Constitution and the said provision is therefore null and void in view of Section 1 of the Constitution”.

The lawyers asked Justice Idris to refer the constitutional questions raised to the Court of Appeal for determination. They also want proceedings at the lower court suspended pending when the issues will be resolved by the Appellate Court.

Responding EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, while urging the court to dismiss the two motions and continue with the hearing of the matter, said it is not appropriate to refer an issue to Appeal Court merely because it is either being raised for the first time or it is a matter of general interest.

He was of the view that the applicants have not met the conditions precedent for referral.

In a bench ruling, Justice Idris referred the questions of law raised by the defendants to the Court of Appeal, pursuant to Section 295 of the Constitution.

He however declined to stay further proceedings in the matter saying he was not permitted by law to do so.

“In the light of the law, the provisions of Section 306 of ACJA, the provisions of Section 36 (5) of the Constitution, the provisions of Section 40 of EFCC Establishment Act and in the circumstances of this case, I am of the view that trial in this matter shall proceed to conclusion.

“Verdict shall thereafter be put on hold till such time when the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal will decide on the questions of law posed by the defendants”, Justice Idris held.

Further hearing in the trial has been adjourned to September 3.



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