Court rejects Agunloye’s bid to stop his prosecution for alleged $6bn fraud
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Court rejects Agunloye’s bid to stop his prosecution for alleged $6bn fraud

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Justice Jude Onwueguzie of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, sitting in Apo, Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a preliminary objection brought by a former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute him.

The EFCC is prosecuting Agunloye on a seven-count charge bordering on suspected fraudulent Mambilla Power Project contract award to the tune of $6billion (Six Billion US Dollars).

It will be recalled that on February 8, 2024, Agunloye, through his counsel, Adeola Adedipe (SAN) filed a motion challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate and prosecute him as well as that of the jurisdiction of the court to try him.

In response, prosecution counsel Abba Muhammed filed a counter affidavit, dated February 22, 2024, where he dismissed Agunloye’s motion as incompetent and offensive to the provisions of Section 115(2) of the Evidence Act.

Delivering ruling on Wednesday, Justice Onwuegbuzie struck out Agunloye’s motion for lack of merit and held that Section 6 and 7 of the EFCC Establishment Act, 2004 gave the Commission investigative and prosecutorial powers to cause investigation into any act of economic and financial crimes.

“On issues of whether the EFCC has the statutory power to investigate and prosecute before a court of competent jurisdiction, I have considered the application of the defence and the respondent, and I hold that the EFCC is charged with the investigation and prosecution of all economic and financial crimes including, contract scams, money laundering, advance fee fraud etc, including the investigation and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws, also cause investigation to weather an individual or company, or anybody is likely to commit any crime. Since the instant charges brought against the defendant are economic and financial crimes in nature, the motion brought by the defendant lacks merit and is hereby dismissed,” the judge ruled.

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On the legitimacy of the prosecution fiat the Commission obtained from the Office of the Auditor-General rather than that of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the judge held that any other state, authority or person was eligible to institute criminal prosecution in the absence of the AGF.

“Even if the charge has no seal of the Attorney-General of the Federation, that does not stop the potency of the charge, as the Attorney-General may decide on any member of his department he wishes to delegate his powers to carry out his duties by law,” he said.

The judge adjourned the matter till May 30, 2024 for continuation of trial.

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