Published On: Thu, Jun 27th, 2019

Court voids criminal charges against Gbajabiamila

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By Vivian Okejeme Abuja

A Federal Capital High Court, yesterday, quashed the criminal charge brought against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila at A Grade 1 Area Court Karishi.
Justice Othman Musa, declared the proceedings and decisions of the Grade 1 Area Court of May 30, 2019, “unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void.”
The respondent African Peoples Party and Hon Anas Isa Mohammed had alleged at the Grade 1 Area Court, that Mr. Gbajabiamila lied on oath while filing Form CF001 of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the last general elections to the effect that he was never convicted of any crime.
Sequel to that, the Speaker of the House of Representative, in a motion on notice, challenged the criminal proceedings instituted against him by the African Peoples Party (APP) at the lower court.
He premised the motion on section 12 of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja Area Courts Act, 2010, Order 44 Rule (A) and (2) of the High Court of the FCT Rules 2018,
The respondents, in their argument, contended that the Speaker was found guilty of professional misconduct by the State Bar of Georgia, United States of America in 2007.
However, Justice Othman Musa, in his judgement voided the criminal charge on the ground that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain and determine the matter.
“The lower court acted recklessly in a matter it has no jurisdiction to do so,” Justice Musa held.
In the suit marked: FCT/HC/BW/M/267/19, the judge further held that the allegation of disciplinary proceedings levelled against Mr. Gbajabiamila does not amount to a criminal conviction by a court of law.
The court in his ruling held that, if a false information was given by Gbajabiamila in the course of filing out his INEC Form CF001 as alleged by the respondents, a criminal charge ought to have been filed against the Speaker at either the Federal High Court or the FCT High Court as prescribed by the Electoral Act as amended.
“The 1st respondent (APP) is not a legal officer of INEC. Criminal matters are only enforceable by a law enforcement agency. I so hold,” the judge said.
Justice Musa held that an indictment by a mere disciplinary committee or commission that is not a court of law recognised by the constitution does not amount to a criminal conviction.
“The order of 26 February, 2007 of the State Bar of Georgia, United States of America against Hon Gbajabiamila does not amount to a criminal offence known by any Nigerian law.
“I therefore, hold the view that the direct criminal complaint against Gbajabiamila was misconceived.
“Having dutifully combed through all the facts and the laws that have been presented before the court, and having soberly reflected on the robust arguments of counsel in the matter, I am satisfied that the reliefs of the application (Gbajabiamila) are granted.
“Consequently, an order is hereby made nullifying the entire proceedings of the Grade 1 Area Court, Karishi, Abuja. The charges in suit no: CR/349/2019 and Motion No: M/19/2019 between African Peoples Party (APP) Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila are hereby quashed,” Justice Musa declared.
In a motion on notice filed and dated June 11, 2019, Gbajabiamila through his counsel, Mr. Oluwole Adaja, urged the court to void the proceedings, decisions and criminal charge of the Grade 1 Area Court, Abuja.
He predicated his application on the following grounds.
“The Area Court of the FCT, Abuja lacks the jurisdiction to try the Applicant (Gbajabiamila) for an offence wholly committed outside the FCT, Abuja.
“The Area Court of the FCT, Abuja lacks the jurisdiction to make any pronouncement as to the truthfulness or falsehood of any information contained in the affidavit deposed to by a candidate of a political party pursuant to Section 31 of the Electoral Act, 2010.”
He further posited that the criminal allegation for which he was being charged at the Grade 1 Area Court, Abuja, was statute-barred as same was not filed within 14 days.
On the strength of section 150 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Mr Gbaja questioned the Area Court’s jurisdiction to try the offence in criminal summons.
He added that the respondent (APP), lacked the right to commence criminal proceedings against him.

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