A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday dismissed the corruption charges filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank), Erastus Akingbola for lack of diligent prosecution.
The presiding judge, Justice Charles Archibong equally discharged the accused person from all the charges and directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, to disband the prosecuting team led by five Senior Advocates.
The judge had earlier overruled the former bank chief in his objection to the new amended 26 counts that was filed against him by the EFCC on the 13th of December, 2010.
Justice Archibong in his ruling on the issue held that the leave of court is not required to amend a charge and that the anti-graft agency has not acted outside the law in taking the action.
He then directed that the amended charge be read to the accused person.
However, this was not to be as the EFCC’s counsel, Godwin Obla, told the court that he was not prepared for trial and that a motion for stay of further proceedings in the matter has been filed.
He then asked for an adjournment for him to compile records of an appeal lodged by the commission against the decision of the judge not to disqualify himself from the matter as demanded by the EFCC.
At this point, the judge rose and went into his chamber to write another ruling on the request of the EFCC to stay further proceedings in the matter.
The judge in his new ruling stated as said “I direct the AGF to disband, sack and debrief the present prosecution team of five SANs and their respective firm for being incompetent in the prosecution of the charges against the accused before this court.
“I direct the AGF to disband the team for serious abuse of process. They are a drain in the public purse, a fact the AGF should be mindful of now if he was not before. This prosecution team have chosen to pursue a campaign to scandalise the court. This amounts to serious and professional incompetent on the prosecution of the accused.
“This prosecution team or any part of it shall not be given any further audience in this court in relation to the charges against this accused either before this presiding judge or any other judge of the Federal High Court for the reason I have given in the foregoing.
“Furthermore, I take judicial notice that the accused is presently facing charges before the Lagos High Court emanating from his tenure as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Intercontinental Bank Plc, the AGF may wish to regain control of this process. This he can of course do at anytime of his choice.
“Meanwhile, the prosecution team presently employed indulged in their professional incompetent to the extreme, had been unmindful of the accused rights for him to have the case against him clearly stated. They have been dismissive of his right to speedy trial which in reality should be a credible procedure.
“Not to indulge in this extended campaign against the presiding judge, I therefore dismissed the charges amended or otherwise.
“For this incompetent and abusive prosecution team, I discharge the accused accordingly and leave the AGF to consider his options.
“This enrol order and the record of proceedings will be served on the AGF and the prosecution team. I will be referring the conduct of the SANs who led this prosecution team to the Ethics and Priviledges Committee for further consideration and determination of the issue.
The five Senior Advocates involved in the prosecution of the case are: Emmanuel Ukala, Konyinsola Ajayi, Kola Awodein, J.B. Daudu and Damien Dodo.
Mr Akingbola had In a notice of preliminary objection filed through his counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe, disclosed that the proposed amended charge is meant to over-reach his earlier objection to the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit in the first place.
According to him, a notice of preliminary objection seeking to quash the charges was filed in respect of an initial 22-counts amended charge that was filed by the commission on the 26th of January, 2010.
He disclosed further that upon the service of the notice on the commission, it went ahead to file another amended charge dated 13th Dec., 2010.
While describing the new amended charge as an abuse of court’s processes, Mr Akingbola alleged that with the new amendment, the EFCC is pursuing a piece meal prosecution to his detriment.
He then urged the court to refuse the amendment saying allowing it will prejudice his right to fair hearing.
However, in its counter affidavit to the notice, the EFCC said it is false that it is indecisive as to whether to prosecute the accused person or that it seeks to prosecute him in bits and pieces as alleged by him.
The anti-graft agency further disclosed that the present amendment is not directed at manipulating the criminal process as alleged by the accused person neither is it intended to take unfair advantage of him.