The Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday dismissed a notice of preliminary objection by Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel challenging a money laundering charge in which he was named as an accomplice.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that the application lacked merit.
Emmanuel prayed the court to hold that he ought not to be named in the charge against Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president Paul Usoro (SAN).
The governor, through his lawyer Dr. Charles Mekwunye, said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was wrong to name him in the charge since he enjoys immunity as enshrined in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution.
Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Finance Nsikan Nkan, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Uwemedimo Nwoko, Accountant-General Mfon Udomah, and an account officer Margaret Thompson Ukpe are also named in the charge.
EFCC, which accused them of laundering N1.4billion state funds through Usoro, said they were “at large”.
Emmanuel urged the court to decline jurisdiction to entertain the charge because EFCC had no locus standi to file it.
He argued that only the state House of Assembly could bring such complaints against him, adding that the charge was outside EFCC’s jurisdictional purview.
According to the governor, the funds said to have been laundered do not belong to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but to Akwa Ibom State.
“It is unconstitutional for the complainant to supervise Akwa Ibom State’s use of funds,” his lawyer argued.
Opposing the motion, EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo said the court’s power to hear and determine money laundering related offences against all persons was not in doubt.
He insisted that Governor Emmanuel was not a defendant in the charge despite being named in it.REPORT THIS AD
Ruling on Thursday, Justice Aikawa said it was not in doubt that the governor enjoyed immunity.
He, however, held that Emmanuel was not facing a charge named in one.
“In every criminal trial, the necessary parties are the complainant and the named defendant, in this case, Mr. Paul Usoro.