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N3.5b Paris Club Loan: Court Strikes Out Charges Against Saraki’s Aides

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The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday struck out an alleged N3.5 billion fraud charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the aides of Dr. Bukonla Saraki, the immediate past Senate President of Nigeria.
The EFCC had claimed that the N3.5b was a Paris Club Fund loan scam.
The aides are Saraki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Gbenga Makanjuola; a cashier in Saraki’s office, Kolawole Shitu; Obiora Amobi; a former Managing Director of the defunct, Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria( SGBN), Mr. Robert Mbonu, said to be at large, and a firm, Melrose General Services Limited.
Justice Justice Akintayo Aluko, however, declined to award cost of N20million against the EFCC as requested by the defendants.
The defendants were arraigned in September 2019 on an 11 count-charge before Justice Babs Kuewunmi.
They pleaded not guilty.
Following Justice Kuewunmi’s transfer to another division, the case file was transferred to Justice Akintayo Aluko.
Midway through their trial, the EFCC applied to court to amend the charge, and two more counts were added, making it a 13 count-charge.
But the defendants through their counsel including K. T. Alowomi, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN) and others, challenges the court’s jurisdisction to entertain the 11 counts and also objected to the second amended 13-count charge.
The contended that the 11-count charge failed to state where the alleged offences were committed, adding that the amendment sought by the prosecution was a ploy to cure the defect in the first charge.
Consequently, they prayed the court to dismiss the charge with a cost of N20 million as damages against the EFCC.
In a ruling delivered last Friday, the judge agreed with the defendants and struck out the charges for lack of jurisdisction.
Justice Aluko held in part: “The prosecution called my attention to the second amended charge which Ihey propose to bring in. I see this call as another means of seeking an amendment of the first amended charge, the validity and competence af which is on tral in view of the preliminary objection of the defendants over which the prosecution has joined issue and which is under consideration.
“I see the call by the prosecutton urging me to take judicial notice of the preposed second amended charge as Inviting the court to overrule itself in its ruling delivered on October 15, 2021, where this court held that, an incompetent originating process cannot be subsequently amended to render it competent as you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.
“I hold the considered view that the call by the prosecution to take Judicial notice of the second amended charge in spite of the fact that beth parties have joined issues on the validity and competency question of the pending first amended Charge, has no capability of bringing succour to the prosecution.
“This Is because the second amended charge was initiated in breach of the mandatory provision of Section 45 of the Federal High Court Act.”
The judge added that defendants’ preliminary objections “have merit and substance in them. They are hereby sustained. I declare the prosecutian’s first amended charge dated and flied on October 3, 2018 invalid and incompetent and same is accordingly struck out.
“Claim for award of damages in the sum of N20 million is hereby declined. Also, | make no Order as to cost”.
The EFCC had on October 7, 2018, arraigned the defendants on charges bordering on conspiracy, payment of some monies without going through financial institutions.
At their arraignment, the EFCC through its lawyer, Mr. Ekele Iheanacho, told the court that the three defendants, sometimes in December 2016, conspired to disguise the origin of the sum of N3.5 billion, which was paid into Melrose General Services Limited account with a bank

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