By Moji Eniola
An Ikeja Special Offences Court on Wednesday dismissed a N254 million bribery suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Albert Bassey, a serving Senator representing Akwa-Ibom North-East.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo in a ruling, dismissed the suit due to lack of jurisdiction and advised the anti-graft commission to file the suit in Akwa-Ibom where the alleged bribe took place.
“The issue of jurisdiction is a fundamental one. In the instant case, the prosecution had failed to give reasons why the suit should be heard within this jurisdiction.
“This court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate on this matter. I hereby strike out this suit for lack of jurisdiction.
“The prosecution should file the charges in Akwa-Ibom where the alleged fraud took place, “Justice Taiwo said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Bassey, 46, is faced with corruption charges proffered against him by the EFCC for receiving alleged bribes of 12 cars worth N254m from an oil marketer, Olajide Omokore, during his tenure (2010-2014) as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance.
The anti-graft commission claimed that the car gifts were given to Bassey by Omokore in exchange for contracts from the Akwa-Ibom Government.
The Akwa-Ibom Senator was to face a 14-count corruption charge alongside Omokore at an Ikeja Special Offences Court.
Bassey was to specifically face seven-counts of corruption by a public officer and a public officer inviting bribes as a result of his own action.
Omokore, was to face a seven-count charge of offering gratification to a public officer and giving bribe on account of the action of a public officer.
The defendants counsels, Solomon Umoh (SAN) and Olatunde Adejuyigbe (SAN), had respectively filed applications contending that the court had no power to hear the substantive case.
Bassey’s counsel, Umoh, had argued that there was nothing before the court to prove that the alleged crime against Bassey was committed outside Akwa-Ibom or in Lagos State.
“There is nothing in the proof of evidence that suggested that any aspect of the alleged crime against the first defendant was committed outside Akwa-Ibom State and in Lagos State.
“Happily, the prosecution has narrowed everything down that it was cars that was delivered to the first defendant by the second defendant.
“So we want to ask where were the cars delivered to so we can know what Lagos has to do with Akwa-Ibom State but we have provided the answers in our argument, the cars were delivered in Akwa-Ibom State.
“If he (Bassey) received in Akwa-Ibom State, how come they are coming to try him in Lagos State.
“The prosecution have not shown how the first defendant came to Lagos to receive vehicles. They have not shown it anywhere in the proof of evidence.”
Umoh, who further argued that Bassey’s name was not mentioned in the petition written to the EFCC, urged the court to grant his application.
Similarly, Omokore’s counsel, Adejuyigbe, SAN had argued that the contending issue was not insufficiency of evidence but whether they were in the right court.
He further argued that in determining the issue of jurisdiction, the court was not bound by the place stated in the charge.
He said, “The count against the second defendant relates to receiving gratification or giving bribe.
“The section under which those counts were charged did not state time of purchase, place of purchase, mode of payment so we cannot be asking the court to rewrite the law,” he said.
However, the prosecution counsel, Sadisu Abubakar, had argued that the EFCC has the right to try the case before the court.
He said that the applicants tied the issue of jurisdiction to the issue of insufficiency of evidence which he noted was an abuse of court processes.
The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene sections 63 (1)(a), 64 (1)(a) and 98(1), (a), (i) of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.