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Daniel’s attempt to reduce EFCC charges fails

AN attempt by former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel to get an Abeokuta High Court to strike out 13 out of the 38 charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) failed Tuesday.

Daniel is facing a 38-count charge, bordering on fraudulent practices during his eight-year tenure between 2003 and 2011.

But through his legal team, led by Professor Taiwo Osipitan, he filed an application before Justice Mabekoje Olanrewaju praying that Counts One to Thirteen of the charges be struck out in view of the fact that a commission of enquiry set up by the state government had already indicted him on such charges.

His argument was that if the court tried him on similar charges, it would amount to “double jeopardy”.

Among other things, the charges in question borders on Daniel appropriating to himself, family members, his associates as well as his associate companies land at various parts of the state during his tenure.

A 17-member legal team is leading Daniel while the EFCC is being led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs assisted by two others.

At the last sitting in December, the defence team had argued among others: “The applicant, having been punished as a result of the recommendations of the Commission, he ought not to undergo trial in counts one-13 of the information which may result in imposition of another punishment on the Applicant.”

Mabekoje in his ruling yesterday, ruled that the Commission of Enquiry Daniel referred to in his submission was not a tribunal nor could it be equated with a court of law, which had powers to try criminal cases.

“Therefore, the fact that the Commission indicted him (Daniel) does not mean that he has been found guilty,” the judge affirmed.

Mabekoje explained that the court therefore had legal right to try the defendant to prove whether he is guilty or innocent of the said charges and dismissed Daniel argument that it would amount to double jeopardy if the court tries him.

The defendant’s argument that it would amount to abuse of court process if the court went ahead to try him on the said 13 charges was also dismissed by the judge.

He also dismissed Daniel’s argument that the wide publicity given to the findings of the Commission’s report would negatively influence the judgment of the case, saying such fears were unfounded. In all instances, Justice Mabekoje Olanrewaju cited legal authorities to back up his assertions.

“The sitting up of the Commission and acceptance of its report by the government was done by existing law.

“Counts one to thirteen are not oppressive, because he (Daniel) has not been tried and found innocent or guilty”, the judge affirmed.

His words: “The Commission did not deal with the criminal aspect of the case so it would be erroneous to say that the defendant has been found guilty by the Commission.”

Before proceedings began on Tuesday, Mr. Kunle Kalejaiye who led the defence team had argued that Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi who represented Rotimi Jacobs had no right to do so, because the fiat given to Jacobs by the attorney general to prosecute the case was given to him on personal basis.

To him therefore, “Our contention is that the prosecution has no representation this morning.”

But the Judge ruled him out after protracted arguments by Kalejaiye and Adeniyi, wondering why Kalejaiye could put up such an argument since Adebisi had been part of the prosecution team since the beginning of the case.

However an application by Kalejaiye to submit a Punch newspaper publication as part of documents to prove the defendant’s case, which was strongly opposed by Adeniyi, was ruled in favour of Kalejaiye.

The case was adjourned to February 22 and March 1 for continuation.

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Posted by on Jan 9 2013. Filed under EFCC Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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