* Says allegations outside EFCC’s investigative, prosecutorial powers
Alex Enumah in Abuja
A former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, has asked Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Apo District, Abuja, to decline jurisdiction in his trial of alleged $6 billion fraud.
Agunloye was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a seven-count charge bordering on fraudulent award of contract and official corruption.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was admitted to bail in the sum of N50 million and two sureties in like sum.
The sureties must be “reputable” and “people of means” resident within the FCT, adding that the sureties must have properties worth N300 million with a Certificate of Occupancy that must be verifiable.
In addition copies of their identity cards and photocopies of their international passports must be submitted to the court.
The defendant is to submit his International passport to the court and must be present for hearing at all times.
The judge subsequently fixed February 12, for trial.
However, at Monday’s proceedings, Agunloye’s lawyer, Mr Adeola Adedipe (SAN), drew the court’s attention to a motion on notice, dated February 6, 2024, praying the court to decline jurisdiction on the grounds that the charge was incompetent.
According to the former minister, the instant charge was investigated by the EFCC and it is currently being prosecuted by the same agency.
He said “The alleged offences in the charge border on the activities of the defendant as a public officer, on the alleged award of contract without budgetary provision, approval and cash backing. It also borders on an alleged disobedience of the directives of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and forgery of a letter dated May 24, 2003.
“These allegations do not constitute financial crimes, which can be lawfully investigated and prosecuted by the EFCC, pursuant to its powers under Sections 6, 7 and 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act and in consonance with the Supreme Court’s decision…”
Agunloye further argued that not having the mandatory statutory powers to investigate the allegations against him ab initio, his purported investigation and current prosecution of this charge by the EFCC is ultra vires its powers, and thereby a nullity.
He submitted that the issue of jurisdiction is a threshold issue, in which the court must first satisfy itself that there is requisite statutory powers in the EFCC to prosecute this charge, and competent jurisdiction in the court to entertain same.
Agunloye therefore prayed the court for an order, prohibiting the EFCC from prosecuting or further prosecuting the instant charge [Charge No. FCT/ABJ/CR/617/2023] against him, for lack of both investigative and prosecutorial powers under Sections 6, 7 & 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004.
“An order to annul this charge and/or decline jurisdiction therein, the same having been investigated and preferred by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, ultra vires its investigative, prosecutorial and statutory powers under Sections 6, 7 & 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004, ditto the Supreme Court’s decision in Nwobike v. Federal Re ublic of Ni erla 2022 NWLR (Pt. 1826) 293.
“An order discharging the defendant/applicant forthwith from the instant charge [Charge No. FCT/ABJ/CR/617/2023].”
Agunloye, a minister under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and also a former Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), was late last year arrested and detained for some days by the EFCC over alleged criminal offences.
He is being accused of corruption and fraud in the award of a $6 billion Mambilla hydropower contract.
One of the count read: “That you, Olu Agunloye, whilst being the Minister of Power and Steel on or about the 22nd of May, 2003 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court awarded a contract, titled “Construction of 3,960mw Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on a Build, Operate and Transfer Basis” to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash backing and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22(4) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.”
Another count read: “That you, Olu Agunloye, on or about the 10th of August, 2019 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, corruptly received the sum of Three Million Six Hundred Thousand Naira (N3,600,000.00) through your Guaranty Trust Bank account no.0022530926 from Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (SPTCL) and Leno Adesanya for having conveyed the “approval of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the construction of the 3,960 megawatts Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station” in favour of SPTCL which you did whilst serving as the Minister of Power and Steel without the approval of the Federal Executive Council contrary to and punishable under Section 8(1)(a) and (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”