BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
A former Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, has challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Lagos to try him over a charge of N5.3 billion fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Nnamani in an application asking the court to decline jurisdiction over the matter, maintained that the court can not try him and or determine the offences contained in charge No. FHC/L/90c/07, between FRN vs Chimaroke Nnamani and eight others, in respect of which a plea bargain agreement was reached between the parties the charge.
The former Governor also insisted since the plea bargain agreement had led to the conviction of some accused persons listed on the charge, the charge cannot be revive by the anti-graft agency.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the trial judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor, had on December 4, issued a bench warrant against the former governor and one Sunday Onyekazuru Anyaogu, for their failure to attend the court to take their pleas on the charge filed against them by the EFCC.
This fresh arraignment is coming ten years after the ex-governor and others were first arraigned before the court in connection with the alleged offence.
Nnamani was earlier arraigned before Justice Tijani Abubakar in 2007 and re-arraigned before Justice Charles Archibong when Tijani Abubakar was elevated to court of appeal.
He was later re-arraigned before Mohammed Yinusa when Justice Archibong was retired.
The former Governor was re -arraigned before Justice Yinusa, who had also retired from the bench, on a 105-count charge of money laundering and economic crime to the tune of N4.5 billion.
The ex-governor was arraigned before the court alongside his ex-aide, Sunday Anyaogu and six firms linked to them.
The companies: Rainbownet Nig Ltd, Hillgate Nig Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School had in 2015 pleaded guilty to the charge and their assets have since been forfeited to the federal government.
The alleged financial impropriety was committed while Nnamani held sway as governor of Enugu state between 1999 and 2007.
Nnamani, according to the charge, was alleged to have conspired with other accused persons to launder various statutory allocations of some local government areas of Enugu State.
The local governments are: Aninri, Enugu South, Agwu, Igbo Etiti and Isi Uzor.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, Nnamani’s lawyer, Abubakar Samusudeen informed the court of his client’s application asking the court to decline jurisdiction was brought pursuant to sections 6(6) and 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
Samusudeen is praying the court for declaration that it lacks jurisdictional competence, to try him and or determine the offences contained in charge No. FHC/L/90c/07, between FRN vs Chimaroke Nnamani and eight others, in respect of which a plea agreement was reached between the parties the charge leading to the institution and determination of amended charge marked FHC/L/09c/2007A, between FRN vs. Rainbownet Nigeria Limited, dated July 7, 2015.
He is also urging the court for an order setting aside charge no. FHC/09c/2007, FRN vs. Chimaroke Nnamani and eight others, whether on original or amended form and an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it’s agents, privies, or any other persons deriving power from the federal government of Nigeria from inviting, instituting, maintaining or otherwise prosecuting them in respect of charge no. FHC/L/09c/07, between FRN vs Chimaroke Nnamani and eight others. And an order staying their arraignment in the said charge whether in its original or amended form, pending the hearing and determination of their application.
The lawyer also pleaded with the court to withdrawal the bench warrant issued against the second defendant in the charge, Sunday Anyaogu, whom he said came to court voluntarily.
Samusudeen informed the court that the second defendant was not aware that the matter will come up at the last adjournment date, and that when he informed him he made himself available before the court.
He therefore urged the court to withdraw the bench warrant against the second defendant.
Responding to Nnamani’s application, EFCC lawyer, K. C. Uzozie, told the court that he was just been served with the application, and that there issue of law that is contained in the application.
Consequently, the EFCC lawyer urged the court for a short adjournment to enable the agency response to the Nnamani’s application.
Ruling on the application, Justice Obiozor, adjourned the matter till January 19, for hearing and determination of Nnamani’s application.
The judge, however, stated that the bench warrant on Nnamani subsists.