EFCC Charges: Court Dismisses Tukur’s Application To Quash Charges

high court lagosJustice Lawal Akapo of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, on Friday dismissed an application filed by Mahmud Tukur and Ochonogor Alex, seeking to quash charges preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The judge dismissed the application for lack of merit and abuse of court processes.

In his ruling, Justice Akapo upheld the prosecution’s argument that “the issue of sufficiency of proof of evidence cannot be raised until the prosecution had closed its case”. According to the judge, “this argument is vital and renders the application premature”.

Earlier, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, had argued that the application to quash the charges against Tukur and Ochonogor was premature since the substantive suit was yet to be considered.

A statement signed by the Head Media and Publicity (EFCC), Wilson Uwujaren, said Tukur, Tayo Oyetibo, had argued that the charges preferred against the accused persons should not be entertained by the court because it was their company, Eterna Plc that committed the crime imputed to them.

However, Jacobs pointed out that the position of the law, on the issue, is that “a company on its own cannot commit a crime but must use human agents”.

He further submitted that, the company, without the human agents, could  not answer to the alleged crime and the roles played by the accused persons were clearly stated in their statements.

He asked the court to “look at the statement of the first accused (Mahmud Tukur) who gave a vivid account of the transaction and how he signed for the monies paid into the account of the 4th defendant (Eterna Plc)”.

Jacobs further submitted that Tukur’s statement showed his involvement in the transaction that led to the charge. He added that the accused was involved in the day-to-day-running of the affairs of the company and that Ochonogor, as Director of Finance during this period, played major role in the importation and transfer of licence. “So, Tukur and Ochonogor are qualified to be charged together with Eterna Plc, as defined under the Criminal Code Law of Lagos State,” he stated.

Justice Akapo ruled that: “The court cannot delve into the substantive suit at an interlocutory stage. I therefore find no merit in the application and it is accordingly dismissed”.

He subsequently adjourned the matter to September 15, 22 and 25 for trial.

Mahmud Tukur, Alex Ochonogor, Abdullahi Alao and Eterna Plc were arraigned on a nine-count charge over an alleged 1.8 billion Naira subsidy scam.

Subsidy Scam:Tukur, Ochonogor Ask Court To Quash N1.8 Billion Charge

EFCC operatives at workTwo oil marketers, Mahmud Tukur and Alex Ochonogor, have asked a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja to quash the N1.8 billion fuel subsidy fraud charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

They made the request in a preliminary notice of objection filed before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo.

The marketers were arraigned alongside their company— Eterna Plc and another marketer, Abdullahi Alao on a nine-count charge of conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretences, forgery and use of false documents.

While the first defendant, Mahmud Tukur is the son of the Fmr PDP Chairman, Bamangar Tukur, the Third defendant, Abdullahi Alao is the son of Ibadan based business man, Arisekola Alao.

The defendants are accused of obtaining N1.8 billion from the Federal Government for a purported importation of 80.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

Their counsel, Mr Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), while moving the application, said the proof of evidence did not support the allegations against them.

Mr Oyetibo therefore argued that the criminal charge preferred against them was an abuse of court process which should be struck out in the interest of justice.

Tracing the genesis of the charge, he said it arose from a joint venture agreement between Eterna Plc,  Axenergy Ltd., Sahara Energy Resources and Ontario Oil for the importation of fuel into the country.

He also faulted Section 10 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act which the EFCC claimed gave them power to charge the defendants to court.

He said his clients were being charged in their personal capacity to embarrass and harass them because there was no vicarious liability under the Nigerian criminal law.

In his response, the EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said Section 260 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State prohibited the court from entertaining such applications.

He stressed that the argument that the principal officers of the company are not liable for the acts of the company is baseless.

He urged the court to dismiss the application for being premature and lacking in merit.

Justice Lawal-Akapo has adjourned the matter till June 27 for ruling.