Court Orders Remand Of BPE DG In Correctional Facility For Disobedience

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered that the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr Alex Okoh, be remanded in a correctional facility for a minimum of 30 days.

Justice Anwuri Chikere gave the order on Tuesday while ruling on contempt proceedings against the BPE and its director-general.

BFIG, the preferred bidder for the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), had initiated the suit against the BPE and Okoh in April.

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ALSCON which is located at Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State has been the subject of an ownership struggle since the government privatised the firm in 2004.

Ruling on the matter, Justice Chikere accused Okoh of serial disobedience of the Supreme Court order on the controversy surrounding the ownership of ALSCON.

She held that the continued refusal to obey the Supreme Court order was a fundamental violation of the rule of law, which portrayed the government as lawless.

Russia’s Rusal had claimed ownership of the company while the indigenous BFIG won a Supreme Court ruling backing its ownership claim.

Despite multiple court rulings, the Nigerian Government, represented by the privatisation agency, BPE, has refused to transfer ownership of the firm to BFIG.

BFIG won the initial bid in 2004 but the BPE cancelled the process in controversial circumstances.

The preferred bidder, thereafter, won a legal battle to reclaim ALSCON in a judgment by the Supreme Court on July 6, 2012.

Court Stops AMCON’s Takeover Of MMA2

cat-1The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, on Monday, vacated an order empowering the Assets Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, to take over the Murtala Mohammed Airport, MMA2, the old Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi, Lagos and some other assets belonging to businessman, Mr Wale Babalakin.

AMCON, through its counsel, Olisa Agbakoba, had obtained the order during the court’s vacation, through an exparte application based on the inability of Bicourtney to pay a 50billion naira outstanding indebtedness to the asset managers.

In the order, Mr Agbakoba was also appointed the receiver/manager of some properties belonging to Mr Babalakin, including, Bicourtney Limited and Roygate Properties Limited.

In vacating the order, Justice Ibrahim Buba ruled that AMCON misled the vacation judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Okon Abang, who granted the order despite pending suits on the matter.

Justice Buba held that this was an abuse of court process.

The court then urged parties in the suit to dialogue and embrace out of court settlement to resolve their issues.

However, what followed the ruling was not the recommended dialogue but an altercation.

It was not exactly clear what sparked the exchange of words between Mr Agbakoba and Mr Babalakin but calm was restored following the intervention of other senior lawyers who were present.

Though both parties accepted the verdict, Mr Agbakoba said that he would explore the opportunity of an appeal.

The matter has been adjourned to December 9 for mention.

N4.7bn Money Laundering: Babalakin’s Case Stalled, Court Adjourns To March 14

A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has adjourned till March 14, the hearing of the applications filed by the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Ltd, Mr Wale Babalakin, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the N4.7 billion fraud charge preferred against him.

Mr Babalakin and his co-defendants, Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Ltd., Bi-Courtney Ltd and Renix Nigeria Ltd, were charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2013.

They were first arraigned on January 17, 2013, before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo on a 27 count charge of allegedly aiding convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, to transfer N4.7bn to Mauritius between May and December 2006.

The accused persons all pleaded not guilty and challenged the competence of the charges against them when Justice Onigbanjo was transferred. The case file was then re-assigned to the current judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo.

Before the present judge,the accused persons have also filed separate applications challenging the court’s jurisdiction and the competence of the charges.

They argued amongst other things that the EFCC lacked the power to prosecute them before a state high court without a valid fiat of the Attorney General of the Federation.

At the hearing of the case today, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the court that he sprained his ankle last week in an accident. He urged the court to grant him an adjournment to enable him attend to his health.

Counsel to Mr Babalakin, Dr Abiodun Layonu (SAN), however urged the court to allow the defence to adopt their written addresses in support of the applications seeking to quash the charge.

Justice Lawal-Akapo refused this move. He held that he was inclined to grant the adjournment on the basis of Mr Jacob’s injury, after which the adoption of the written addresses on the applications was adjourned till March 14.

Babalakin Questions Legality Of Criminal Charge Against Him

The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin has challenged the legality of the criminal charge filed against him and four others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before an Ikeja High Court.

He also filed an application asking the court to dispense with, his physical presence in court pending the hearing and determination of his application challenging the charges.

Mr Babalakin is facing trial alongside one Alex Okoh, a banker and three companies, Stabilini Vision Ltd, Bi-Courtney Ltd and Renix Nigeria Ltd for fraudulently transferring 4.7 billion Naira on behalf of the convicted former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.

The EFCC alleged that Babalakin and his co-defendants fraudulently assisted Ibori to transfer huge sums of money through various parties to Erin Aviation account in Mauritius for the purchase of a Challenger Jet aircraft.

The defendants, who were however billed for a fresh arraignment before a new trial judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, resisted the arraignment on the basis of their pending applications challenging the court’s jurisdiction.

The former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, has been moved to the Commercial Division of the High Court.

Mr Babalakin also refused to go into the dock, while his counsel, Mr. Wale Akoni, argued that he could not be docked until the determination of his pending application challenging the charge and the jurisdiction of the court.

The trial judge, Justice Lawal-Akapo, ruled in favour of Mr Babalakin and subsequently extended the same ruling to the co-defendants after an application by their counsel.

The court directed the Police and the EFCC not to re-arrest Mr Babalakin because the bail earlier granted to him by the former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, was still in force.

The judge also ordered the EFCC to release Mr Okoh’s international passport to enable him embark on two business trips between December 2013 and January 2014. He is to return the international passport to the EFCC not later than January 30, 2014.

Further hearing in the case has been fixed for the January 20, 2014 for the hearing of all pending applications.

Money Laundering: Court Releases Babalakin Travelling Document

A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Thursday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to release the travelling documents of the Chairman, Bi-Courtney Highway Services, Wale Babalakin.

The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Nigeria Limited, Wale Babalakin

Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo gave the order in a ruling on application by the Bi-Courtney boss seeking permission to travel to South Africa to treat hypertension and other unspecified ailments.

The judge however ordered that Mr Babalakin must return the passports to the custody of the EFCC before 27 March a date already set aside by the court to hear the applications by the Bi-Courtney Boss seeking to quash the charges against him.

The Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, did not oppose the application for the release of the travel document; he merely urged the court to ensure that the defendant was not being allowed to travel to a country where he could easily abscond from trial.

Mr Babalakin and his co-defendants are facing charges of fraudulently aiding convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori to transfer N4.7 billion to Mauritius between May and December 2006.

Facing the 27 counts along with Mr Babalakin are Alex Okoh and three firms, Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited.

The second defendant, Mr Okoh is also said to have a similar application pending before the court for the release of his passports to travel abroad. It’s not certain yet when he will be arguing his application.

N4.7 Billion Fraud: Court Grants Bail To Babalakin

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday arraigned the embattled Chairman of Bi-Courtney, Wale Babalakin along with 4 others before a Lagos High court in connection with criminal conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N4.7 billion on behalf of the convicted former Delta State governor, James Ibori.

The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services, Wale Babalakin in court on Thursday

The EFCC had on Wednesday issued a statement that “the businessman, who was supposed to report to the commission today (Wednesday) preparatory to his arraignment on a 27-count criminal charge before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court tomorrow, January 17, 2013 failed to do so, and has gone underground.”

Based on the non-appearance of the businessman the EFCC’s office, the agency had declared Mr Babalakin wanted.

However, the Bi-Courtney boss had faulted the action of the EFCC saying “I have been in regular touch with the EFCC and have reported to the commission every other day.”

When the charges were read to him, Mr Babalakin pleaded not guilty to all 27 of them.

After his Arraignment, his lawyer moved an application that he be admitted on bail on grounds of self-recognisance. The Counsel to the EFCC did not oppose the application but asked that the court to give Mr Babalakin such conditions that will ensure that he continues to show up for trial

Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo thereafter admitted the Bi-Courtney boss to bail on self-recognizance. The only condition attached is that he must deposit his passport with the EFCC who must not release it without express permission of the court.

Mr Babalakin was charged before Justice Onigbanjo on a 27-count of conspiracy, retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct and corruptly conferring benefit on account of a public action.

The offences, according to the EFCC are contrary to Section 17(a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004.

Efforts to arraign the defendants were stalled on November 29 and December 12 last year after Mr Babalakin’s counsel told the court that he had been admitted at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos.

Mr Babalakin was arraigned alongside Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited for fraudulently transferring N4.7 billion on behalf of Mr Ibori.