Former Plateau State governor, Senator Joshua Dariye was on Friday ordered by the Supreme Court, sitting in Abuja, to return to the High Court in the Federal Capital Territory, to face 23 counts of corruption brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Supreme Court dismissed an interlocutory appeal which has stalled Dariye’s trial for corruption charges since 2007.
Justice Sylvester Ngwuta who delivered the lead judgment described the scenario played out in the entire case as a “sad commentary” on the nation’s fight against corruption.
In a unanimous judgment by the five-man panel, the court ordered the accused to return to the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Gudu, Abuja, to face his trial.
The Supreme Court described as unmeritorious, Dariye’s appeal against the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, on his preliminary objection challenging the competence of the charges instituted against him and the jurisdiction of the FCT High Court to entertain the suit.
The EFCC had, on July 13, 2007 arraigned the former governor on 23 counts of money laundering and other corruption charges allegedly involving “billions of naira” belonging to the Plateau State Government.
The anti-graft agency accused the former governor of among others, diversion of about N1.2bn of the state’s ecological funds into the account of Ebenezer Ratnen Venture, which is one the companies through which he allegedly siphoned the public funds.
The trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT High Court in Gudu, Abuja, had scheduled trial to commence on November 13, 2007 when the former governor filed his notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction and the competence of the charges.
The appellant had contended that the FCT High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit since the alleged offences involved funds belonging the Plateau State Government.
He thus argued that he ought to have been tried in Jos and urged the court to quash the entire 23 counts preferred against him.
However, the apex court, in resolving all the four issues formulated against the former governor, held that the Court of Appeal was right to have affirmed the ruling of the FCT High Court which had dismissed his notice of preliminary objection.
Justice Ngwuta held, “All the four issues determined by the court were resolved against the appellant.
“So, the appeal has no merit. It is hereby dismissed. The appellant should go back to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to stand his trial on the charges levelled against him.
“This is a sad commentary on our fight against corruption. Appeal dismissed.”
Justice Chima Nweze, while concurring with the judgment, also frowned on the attitude of politically exposed persons to deploy tactics to delay corruption cases instituted against them, as exemplified in Dariye’s case.
He held, “I have noticed a most worrying trend in most recent time, particularly among the politically exposed citizens of this great country, imagining that they are above the laws of the land, have perfected some awkward and baseless tactics of delaying their trial when they run into conflict with the law.
“The appellant in this appeal falls into this category. In 2007, about eight years ago, leave was granted to the respondent to prefer charges against him. He was duly arraigned before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
“On November 13, the date set aside for the prosecution to marshal its witnesses, he implored the trial court to quash the charges against him on the grounds that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine the charges.
“When the application was dismissed, he proceeded to the Court of Appeal, Abuja division, which held and dismissed his appeal. Instead of returning to the trial court to face his trial, he appealed against the lower court’s judgment. I agree that this appeal is unmeritorious.”
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