An Ogun State High Court, sitting in Abeokuta, on January 20, 2012, dismissed an application filed by a former governor of the state, Gbenga Daniel, to stop his trial. Daniel is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 43 count-charge of stealing, fraudulent conversion by trustee, failure to declare assets as well as corruptly obtaining public property while in office as governor.
Daniel, through his counsel, Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, had on January 19, 2012, in a motion on notice, supported by a 37 paragraph affidavit,challenged the locus standi of both the Commission and the Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute the former governor and asked the court to quash the charges against him. He also argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to try him. Osipitan argued that the offences for which Daniel is being prosecuted were committed in Ogun State and as such, the EFCC lacked the right to institute any action against the former governor.
But Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje, while ruling on the no-case submission, said the Commission and the Attorney General of the federation had the jurisdiction and Locus Standito prosecute the accused as empowered by the Establishment Act of the anti-graft agency and the Constitution. He therefore resolved that Gbenga Daniel should face trial. Daniel’s affidavit stated in part that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to prosecute state offences and to initiate criminal proceedings in respect of state offences and or properties belonging to Ogun state government and Ogun state Local Government Councils whether in their names or in the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, had on January 19, 2012, while citing Sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Act and Sections 211 and 174 of the 1999 Constitution, told the court that the accused person has a case to answer as he added that the Commission also has power to prosecute the former governor Daniel. According to him, the Commission can accept and institute criminal charges against any agency whether State or Federal or any individual, organisation or entity and that the Constitution empowers and stipulates that the Attorney General can take over any case on behalf of the Federal government.
Jacobs while describing Osipitan’s argument as a ploy to delay the trial said “My learned friend has also said in the 37 paragraph affidavits that it is only Ogun state and Ogun State Local government that can complain or write petition alleging that a crime has been committed against it. My Lord this is a misconception of Law. It is also a misconception to say that the EFCC lacks the powers to prosecute this case. Anybody can be prosecuted by the EFCC, anybody can raise an allegation before anybody and the EFCC based on powers conferred on it by the Act establishing it has the powers to cause an investigation to be conducted,” Justice Mabekoje, in his ruling, advised counsels in the case to avoid any unnecessary technicality that could delay the case.
Daniel was dragged before the Ogun State High court on the 12th of October, 2011 on an initial 16 count charge for offences bordering on embezzlement and conversion of Ogun state properties. The charges were later amended to 43 counts by the EFCC.