Court dismisses application, asks Justice Mohammed Yunusa to face trial
Shema’s alleged N5.7b SURE-P fraud case adjourned till today
A Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja has dismissed the application filed by suspended judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Mohammed Yunusa, challenging jurisdiction of the court and ordered him to face trial for alleged corruption.
The trial judge, Justice Sherifat Solebo, yesterday dismissed the application while ruling on a preliminary objection filed and argued by the defence counsel, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN).
Clarke said the court lacked the jurisdiction because he (Yunusa) had been cleared of the criminal charges by the National Judicial Commission (NJC), saying: “The application of the first defendant is predicated on the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Nganjiwa as well as the provisions of Sections 153 and 158 of the 1999 Constitution.
“According to the constitution, the NJC has the power to appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control on a judicial officer.
He submitted that for Yunusa’s dismissal to be valid, President Muhammadu Buhari has to give a recommendation for his suspension.
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel, Wahab Shittu, argued that the NJC, by virtue of Sections 153 and 158 of the Constitution, has power to appoint, dismiss and discipline any judicial officer, saying: “There is no where in Section 153 that says judicial officer cannot be tried. This is a peculiar matter and reference had been made to the NJC. The judge was investigated. The council had already decided to sanction, suspend him from office and recommend him for compulsory retirement.”
Justice Solebo, in her ruling, referred to a November 8, 2016 letter from the NJC to the EFCC suspending the judge.
Besides, Justice Solebo also dismissed a preliminary objection filed by Agbo’s defence counsel, Mr. John Odubela (SAN).
She said: “Going through Nganjiwa’s case, there is no evidence that the NJC investigated Nganjiwa but in the case against the first defendant (Yunusa), the NJC at its 76th meeting investigated him.
“The NJC has done what it is empowered to do, it is my decision that I am not bound by Nganjiwa vs Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is my conclusion that the first defendant has to defend himself in the information filed by the prosecution.
“It is my decision that this court has jurisdiction on the charges filed against the first defendant in this case and the notice of preliminary objection is dismissed,” the judge said.
The judge, who noted that the offence in which Agbo was charged under Section 64 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos was known to law, subsequently adjourned trial till June 11, 13 and 14, 2018.
In another development, Justice Babagana Ashigar of Federal High Court, Katsina State, has adjourned till hearing on the alleged N5.7 billion fraud case levelled against former Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema by the EFCC till today.
Shema was alleged to have fraudulently diverted the amount during his tenure as state governor.
The money was said to have been diverted from the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
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