Relief finally came the way of embattled former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr. Erastus Akingbola, yesterday over the charge of N47.1 billion theft preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos struck out the case.
Sequel to the ruling of Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, on May 2, 2014, which dismissed the application of Akingbola and his co-defendant, Bayo Dada on the issue of jurisdiction, the defendants had filed two separate appeals to challenge the jurisdiction of the lower court to entertain the 22-count charge filed against them by EFCC.
In its verdict yesterday, the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous decision, allowed the appeal and held that the subject matter of the alleged offences related to banking operations and operation of capital issues, which fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
The appellate court, in its lead judgment delivered by Justice Amina Augie (presiding), adopted by other members of the panel (Justice Samuel Oseji and Justice Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo) held that the lower court judge took a narrow view of the matter when he assumed jurisdiction on the matter.
Justice Augie held that the lower court judge fell into a serious error when he failed to abide by the decision of the appellate court in the case of Okey Nwosu vs. EFCC even when it was brought to his notice.
Justice Aguie noted that the appellate court had in Okey Nwosu’s case held that the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, where the charges were instituted against the defendants, had no jurisdiction over capital market-related issues.
The court held that the subject matter of the alleged offences related to banking operations and capital market issues, was outside the purview of the Lagos High Court. The court held that the lower court failed in its duty as an unbiased umpire when it refused to study thoroughly the processes presented before it.
Justice Augie added that the lower court turned a blind-eye to the proof of evidence brought before it before delivering its ruling, saying: “It is the duty of the court to do substantial justice; a one-sided justice is no justice at all.”
Chief Wole Olanipekun, lead counsel to Akingbola, had, in his submission, urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the lower court.