Court asks Tarfa to prepare defence
…EFCC opens case against Nwobike
A Lagos State High Court, Igbosere, yesterday told the embattled Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ricky Tarfa, that he has case to answer and that he should go and prepare his defence over allegation of bribery preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
Also, the EFCC yesterday opened its case against another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr Joseph Nwobike, before Justice Raliat Adebiyi of another Lagos High Court in Igbosere
Nwobike is standing trial before the court on a charge bordering on an attempt to pervert the course of justice and offering gratification to a public official, a charge he denies.
Justice A. A. Akintoye stated this while ruling on the preliminary objection brought before it by Tarfa, urging the court to quash the charge and decline jurisdiction.
Tarfa had through his Counsel, Mr Anthony Idigbe, filed an application urging the court to quash the charge against him.
The senior lawyer was arraigned on March 9 by EFCC on a 27-count charge bordering on refusal to declare assets, making false statement, offering gratification to public officer, failure to declare his assets in the assets declaration Form.
He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail on self-recognizance.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, Justice Akintoye refused all the prayers of the defendant in the preliminary objection and held that the EFCC has the power to investigate and prosecute Tarfa.
“On the issue of the charge being an abuse of court process as argued by the defendant, I hold that the information contained in the charge before me is different from the one before my learned brother.
“In that charge what the defendant was charged with is obstructing EFCC official from carrying out their lawful duties.
“I, therefore, hold that the information in this charge is not an abuse of court process,” she held.
Akintoye also ruled that the commission has the power to ask the defendants to declare his assets anytime, whether upon arrest or later, so far the offences charged were related to financial crimes.
The judge also said that the EFCC has the authority to prosecute any financial crimes under state laws, therefore, the alleged fact of gratifying a public officer, which the defendant was charged with, falls under the powers of the EFCC.
She said contrary to the argument of Tarfa that there was no evidence in the proof of evidence filed by the prosecution, which linked him to the offences, the court held that there are enough evidence to that regard.
The court, however, adjourned the case till May 20 for commencement of trial and May 27 for further hearing.
Meanwhile, the EFCC called its first and second witnesses, Joseph Oyekunle and Oliver Enwerem, both Compliance Officers with United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Access Bank respectively, who testified about financial transactions that occurred in the accounts of Joseph Nwobike & Co. with both banks.
During the examination led by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, Oyekunle testified that on March 19, 2015, there was a N750,000 debit on the account of Joseph Nwobike & Co. in favour of Mohammed Nasir Yinusa.
“There must have been an instruction authorising the transaction,” he said.
Oyekunle added that on April 1, 2015: “Debit transactions of N1.5 million in four places were made on the same day in Manager’s Cheques” were made to another account.
Under cross examination by defence counsel Mr Olawale Akoni (SAN), Oyekunle admitted that on proper examination of the bank documents before him, the third and fourth transfers of N1.5 million each were made to one Seni Ibiwoye.
“The 20th and 23rd entries were made in favour of Seni Ibiwoye,” he said, admitting that he neither operated the defendant’s account nor did he know the charge against him.
On his part, Enwerem testified that there were several transfers to different accounts by the defendant’s company, including a September 30, 2015 transfer of N300,00 to a company, Awa Ajia Ltd.
He, however, admitted that after the transactions of September 28 and 30 there were no other transfers into the accounts by Joseph Nwobike and Co.
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