Former Governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu, has asked a Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court to quash the charge fraud preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Audu, who was arraigned on March 18 before Justice A. O. Adeniyi, is facing a 36-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust as well as misappropriation of public funds to the tune of over N10 billion. Also charged alongside the former governor, is former Director-General of the Directorate of Rural Development, Alfa Ibn Mustapa.
The offence is punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code, CAP 532, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. Though Adeniyi had adjourned the criminal case till yesterday for trial to begin, this was not to be, as Audu, who is the 1st accused, brought a preliminary objection praying the court to quash the 36-count charge against.
Counsel to the former governor, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), told the court that the preliminary objection became necessary against the backdrop of the discovery that “the case against the 1st accused person is hollow and wishywashy”.
Ozekhome added that his client would be subjected to “undue trial” and suffer “double jeopardy,” if full-scale trial was allowed in the matter. He also said the course of justice would be greatly served, if his client was prosecuted in Kogi, in the jurisdiction where the alleged offences were committed.
The counsel wondered why the anti-graft agency would initiate fresh criminal proceedings against the 1st accused, because his trials are “running simultaneously” before a High Court of Kogi State and Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja.
Apart from saying the charge is an abuse of court process; the objection challenges the jurisdiction of the trial court to entertain the case. As a result of the preliminary objection filed yesterday, Adeniyi adjourned the case till June 18, to enable the prosecution sufficient time to study it and also file appropriate response.
Earlier, prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had frowned at the filing of the preliminary objection, pointing out that counsel had an understanding to avoid encumbrances, and let trial begin in earnest.