By Tony Orilade, Ag. Head, Media & Publicity, EFCC
Justice A. A. Okeke of the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Monday, June 17, 2019, granted an application made by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for the arrest of a serving Senator, Albert Bassey popularly known as OBA, compelling him to appear in court and face the money laundering charges preferred against him by the Commission.
The serving Senator, according to his counsel Barrister Samuel Ikpo, failed to appear in court because he was not served a copy of the charge. Ikpo also added that he was instructed by his client, to appear in court and receive the charge on his behalf.
However, the prosecution through its counsel, Mohammed Sadisu Abubakar gave detail account the court on efforts made by the Commission to serve the lawmaker.
“My lord, since the filling of the charge, the prosecution has made frantic efforts to serve the suspect the charge but all our efforts proved abortive, as the suspect, who has been on administrative bail granted him by the EFCC has jumped bail. The Investigating Officer, Osatuyi Ayodele, also placed a call to him on June 6, 2019, inviting him to the office so as to be served the charge, but the Lawmaker failed to show up after he promised that he would.
“One of his (Senator Bassy) lawyer, Ini Utuk, was also contacted on June 7, 2019, but equally failed to show up, after promising to do so. Till this moment My lord, the suspect has failed, to honour the terms of his administrative bail which is to always make himself available.
“In the circumstances my lord, I humbly apply, pursuant to Section 113 and 114 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act for this honourable court to issue a warrant for the arrest of the suspect and to produce him before this honourable court”, Abubakar said.
But the defense counsel however argued that the charge be given to him since the matter was coming up for the first time before the court and that the suspect was not served the copy of the charge. “The defendant was sworn in last week in Abuja as a Senator. I respectfully apply that the charge be given to me to hand over to him”, said Ikpo.
Responding on point of law, the EFCC counsel countered the argument of the defence, as he hinged his argued on the provisions of Section 114 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
He said, “My lord, Section 114 of the ACJA provides that the court can issue an order for the first time, depending on the nature and circumstances of the case and the nature and circumstances of this case gives rise for the issuance of a bench warrant. This is a criminal matter and there is no provision in ACJA 2015 to serve a charge through counsel in respect of a suspect who has not appeared before the court. My lord, I urge you to discountenance the submissions of the defence counsel”, Abubakar argued.
After listening to both sides, Justice Okeke upheld the arguments of the prosecution. “Section 114 of the ACJA is instructive on this issue. The court can issue a warrant on the first day depending on the circumstances and nature of the case. One should lead by example and to whom much is given, much is expected.
“Where the defendant found it necessary to attend a legislative function, he should also find it obligatory to honour invitations by law enforcement agencies. Justice is for all in the temple of justice and if there is any application to be granted in the interest of justice, it should be the application made by the prosecution.
“The court therefore grants the application and consequently issue a bench warrant against the defendant for his production in this court on the next adjourned date”, the court ruled.
The matter was thereafter adjourned to June 24, 2019, for arraignment.
Senator Albert Bassey is the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial district in the Upper Chamber.