‘Invoking the Criminal Jurisdiction of the Court to Achieve a Civil Remedy Must Not be Allowed’; Kogi Magistrate Rules

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A Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Anyigba, Kogi State, on 20th October, 2021, discharged one Ezekiel Zhizhi of the offence of criminal  intimidation, criminal misappropriation and criminal breach of trust.

The prosecution’s case was that the Police Informant had in 2010 entered into Zenith Bank for the purpose of fixing his money in the bank and that after entrusting the total sum of Two Million One Hundred Thousand Naira ( N2,100, 000) only to the defendant who at the time worked in the marketing unit of the bank, the defendant diverted the money into another business and misappropriated same.

The defendant, on his part, denied having any criminal intent in the dealings he had with the Police Informant, and maintained his stand that when the defendant approached him in the bank for fix deposit transaction, he suggested to him a private business in which he could invest and get higher interest returns than he could get in a fixed deposit arrangement; and that the Police Informant welcomed his suggestion and invested accordingly.

At the close of the trial, the crucial issue before the court was whether the case was criminal or civil in nature.

Delivering her Judgment on 20th October, 2021, the presiding Magistrate, Mrs. Blessing Kabo, Esq., found of a fact that what transpired between the Police Informant and the defendant was a business deal in which the Court has no jurisdiction to delve into: “I find that the main issue in this case is the balance of 1,700,000.00 which the defendant is yet to refund to the PW1, a cause of action that arose out of the business relationship between both”.

Going further, the Magistrate opined: “What I see is the PW1 trying to invoke the criminal jurisdiction of this court to achieve a civil remedy as what the PW1 majorly seeks is to get back his balance of #1, 700, 000.00 and this court sitting in its criminal jurisdiction lacks the jurisdiction to award that claim since the transaction giving rise to this case is one of a business relationship between PW1 and the defendant”.

“I find that this case being rooted in a civil transaction, the subject matter is outside the jurisdiction of this court, and the major feature that PW1 seeks to get his money back is one which divests this court of its jurisdiction and I so hold”, the Court ruled.

After the judgment, both the Prosecuting Counsel, S.O. Akobe, Esq. and the Defence Counsel, E.O. Megida, Esq. (who held the brief of Professor B. Ogwo), commended the Magistrate for her industry and erudition while describing the judgment as “a very well researched judgment”.

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