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Counsel bicker over fiat in alleged $1.9b fuel subsidy fraud suit


courtIt was a battle of legal maneuverings yesterday between the lawyer to the Economic and Financial Crimes and Commission (EFCC) Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) and counsel to the oil marketers being tried for alleged N1.9 billion fuel subsidy fraud, Mr. Edoka Onyeke.

When the matter came up for hearing yesterday before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of Lagos High Court, Ikeja, the defendants challenged the power of Jacobs to prosecute them without a documented fiat from the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

Though Jacobs attempted to tender a copy of his authorisation letter from the bar, but was objected to by counsel to the defendants.
The marketers being tried in the nine-count charge suit filed by the anti-graft agency include Walter Wagbatsoma; Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited. They are standing trial over alleged fraudulent claims from the fuel subsidy fund.

Onyeke specifically told the court yesterday that Jacobs, being a private legal practitioner, failed to produce before the court a fiat authorising him to prosecute the defendants.

It would be recalled that the trial which began in 2013 before same court was adjourned for written addresses when Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) filed a motion challenging the legality of Jacobs to represent the Federal Government.

While moving the application dated April 20, 2016, Edoka Onyeke argued that the prosecution counsel Jacobs does not have a valid fiat to represent the government in the matter, urging the court to dismiss the charges filed against his client.

“Having not attached a fiat along with the charges as at May 8, 2013 when trial commenced, the entire proceedings before the court constitute a gross abuse of court process,” he stated.Onyeke, however, prayed the court to vacate the entire proceedings.

Countering, Jacobs said the motion was based on the false premise that the EFCC cannot initiate criminal proceeding without the fiat of the AGF.

The EFCC lawyer noted that “the constitution also empowers other security agencies such as the EFCC and the police to initiate a trial.
“The commission has power to brief his counsel. It is not in dispute that EFCC investigated the allegation and prosecuted the case, he noted.”

After entertaining their arguments, Okunnu instructed the EFCC counsel to file in the fiat through an affidavit which should be served on all parties.
She subsequently adjourned the matter till May 24 for further hearing.

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