N6bn Mambilla Saga: Agunloye Heads to Court of Appeal

Posted on May 15, 2024

Former Minister of Power and Steel, Dr. Olu Agunloye has vowed to appeal the ruling of a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) high court in Apo, which dismissed his preliminary objection challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to Prosecute him.

At the proceedings on Wednesday, the Court ruled that the EFCC has the powers to investigate and prosecute the alleged offences.

However, it is viewed that the ruling of the court is a total departure from the decision of the Supreme Court in FRN v. Nwobike, where similar issues have been decided by the Apex Court.

Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Agunloye over a $6 billion Mambilla hydropower contract.

The anti-graft agency alleged that it traced some suspicious payments made by Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd to Agunloye’s bank accounts.

Agunloye was arraigned on seven-count charges bordering on fraudulent award of a contract and official corruption.

In a preliminary objection dated February 6, Agunloye said the EFCC lacks the powers to prosecute him because the offences levelled against him do not border on financial crime.

“The alleged offences in this charge, bother on my activities as a public officer, on the alleged award of contract without budgetary provision, approval and cash backing,” Agunloye said.

“It also bothers on alleged disobedience of the directives of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and forgery of a letter dated 22nd May 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 in  Nwobike v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2022) 6  NWLR (Pt. 1826) 293.

“Not having the mandatory statutory powers to investigate the allegations in this charge ab initio, I know that the purported investigation and current prosecution of this Charge by the EFCC is ultra vires its powers.”

In his affidavits, Agunloye added that “this is a threshold issue, in which I know that 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”.

The former minister submitted that “it will be most unjust and unfair to subject me to criminal trial or prosecution, before determining whether the investigating and prosecuting body has the requisite statutory powers to so do”.

“I am an old man of 76 years old, who ought not to be subjected to harrowing fundamental procedural anomalies, that can be resolved at an early stage,” Agunloye said.

“It will be fair and just for this honourable court to first determine and render a decision on this threshold issue of EFCC’s competence to investigate and prosecute this case. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application.”

Consequently, the former minister is praying the court for an order “prohibiting the EFCC, whether by itself or any officer within its employ, from prosecuting or further prosecuting the instant charge [Charge No. FCT/ABJ/CR/617/2023] against the defendant, for lack of both investigative and prosecutorial powers under Sections 6, 7 & 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004”.

He is also seeking an order to annul the charge and discharge him forthwith.

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