The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has challenged the re-assignment of the money laundering charge that it had filed against the lawyer of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie, to another judge.
The move stalled the trial of the defendant today, at the Federal High Court Sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State.
Mr Uyi Giwa-Osagie, a senior Lawyer and his younger brother, Erhunse, are being tried before the court by the EFCC for allegedly laundering the sum of $2 million (USD).
They were first arraigned before the vacation judge, Justice Nicholas Oweibo on August 14, during the court’s long vacation on three counts of conspiracy and money laundering.
But they pleaded not guilty and were granted bail by the court.
After the court resumed from the vacation, they were re-arraigned on the same charge before Justice Chuka Obiozor.
But before their trial could commence before Justice Obiozor, their lawyers, Ahmed Raji and Norrison Quakers, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), wrote a letter to the Chief Judge of the court asking for the consolidation of the charge with that of another defendant, Abdullahi Babalele.
Babalele, who is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s son-in-law, is being tried before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke also of the same court for allegedly laundering the sum of $140, 000 USD.
The lawyers claim that the facts in the charges were essentially the same and it was better to consolidate the cases before one judge.
Justice Obiozor subsequently returned the case file to the court’s registry and the EFCC’s case against Uyi Giwa-Osagie was reassigned to Justice Aneke for consolidation of both matters.
At the resumed hearing of the matter today before Justice Aneke, the EFCC counsel told the court that his commission was protesting the consolidation.
Oyedepo said: “We are protesting that, we have written a letter to the Honourable Chief Judge for a reassignment of the case to the former judge, Justice Obiozor.
“There is nothing connecting the case pending before this court and this case. It is going to be dangerous things if we allow this.
“During the vacation, two cases were assigned to Justice Obiozor, this one and that of Professor Maurice Iwu, but they were both transferred”.
He, therefore, urged the court to adjourn the matter, so that it can be reassigned to the former judge.
The defendants counsel, Mr Norrison Quakers (SAN) has, however, described Oyedepo’s statement as ‘offensive and out of tune”.
He said: “I find the statement of the prosecutor a bit offensive and out of tune.
“The court will recall that the matter was transferred based on rule of court and by the Administrative Judge, who in his wisdom transferred the matter based on the connection in the proof of evidence served on us.
“Having consolidated the two charges, all the counsel have to come before this court”.
Quakers (SAN) also told Justice Aneke that the prosecution has not presented anything before the court challenging the transfer of the charge.
He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the prosecutor’s argument for the request for adjournment.
Responding on points of law, the EFCC lawyer, Oyedepo cited section 89 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, and submitted that there was no connection between the two cases consolidated.
“The charge has no nexus, the transfer is not in the interest of justice, no panel was constituted and I wasn’t invited to any panel.
“I urge the court to return the case file to the Chief Judge for reassignment to the former judge”.
After listening to both lawyers, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, adjourned till the case till Thursday, January 16, for his ruling.