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Published On: Tue, Mar 18th, 2014

N25.7bn theft: Epileptic power supply stalls trial

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The epileptic power supply at the Lagos State High Court sitting in ikeja, yesterday, stalled the on-going trial of former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, standing trial for an alleged N25.7billion theft preferred against him and two others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Atuche and his wife, Elizabeth, are standing trial alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, UgoAnyanwu, for theft.

When the case was mentioned, the presiding judge, Justice Lateefat Okunnu, adjourned the matter to 18th march, following the power outage in the court.

It was observed that persistent power outage in the court has been on in the past three weeks.

Several courts within the court premises could not sit and litigants were left to their fate as the courts could not hold normal proceeding as they were left in pitch darkness.

It would be recalled that, at the last proceeding, the Court had dismissed the application filed by Atuche, asking it to stay further proceedings on his trial.

Atuche, through his counsel, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), had prayed the court to stay proceedings on the trial.

The senior lawyer said the stay was necessary pending the determination of the various appeals filed by both the EFCC and Atuche before the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal.

Idigbe added that, the EFCC had filed an application for stay of proceedings at the Appeal Court and had also petitioned that the panel of judges should be reconstituted.

“The prosecution has filed a stay of proceedings against our appeal at the Appeal Court.

“They want the court to stay hearing of our appeal pending the determination of their own appeal against the ruling delivered by the Appeal Court on November 21, 2013”.

Idigbe, said that, the Appeal Court had in the ruling struck out the theft charges preferred against a former Managing Director of Finban kPlc, Okey Nwosu, by the EFCC.

He added that, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, also of an Ikeja High Court, has adjourned another matter involving Atuche on the same grounds indefinitely.

But in his response, counsel to EFCC Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), argued that the application should be dismissed for being an abuse of court processes.

Pinheiro said: “The law as it stands mandates the court to uphold Section 40 of the EFCC Act.

“It is a deliberate ploy to delay and truncate this proceeding.”

However, Justice Lateefat Okunnu, in a short ruling, held that Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law prohibited her from entertaining the application.

The judge held that Section 40 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act also compelled her not to determine the application.

Okunnu said, Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that a criminal charge should be concluded in a timely manner.

“I hereby strike out the application in its entirety,” she said.

 

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