Ex-minister of Power, Olu Agunloye loses bid to stop $6bn fraud trial

The Federal Capital Territory High Court, sitting in Apo, Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a preliminary objection brought by the ex-minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to prosecute him.

The spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, stated this in a statement on Wednesday.

Agunloye is facing prosecution by the EFCC on seven counts bordering on suspected fraudulent Mambilla Power Project contract award to the tune of $6bn.

On February 8, 2024, Agunloye had, through his counsel, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), filed a motion challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate and prosecute him, as well as that of the jurisdiction of the court to try him.

Oyewale revealed that “In response, the prosecution counsel, Abba Muhammed, filed a counter affidavit, dated February 22, 2024, where he dismissed Agunloye’s motion as incompetent and offensive to the provisions of Section 115(2) of the Evidence Act.”

Delivering a ruling on Wednesday, Justice Onwuegbuzie struck out Agunloye’s motion for lack of merit and held that Sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Establishment Act, 2004 gave the commission investigative and prosecutorial powers to cause investigation into any act of economic and financial crimes.

The judge ruled, “On issues of whether the EFCC has the statutory power to investigate and prosecute before a court of competent jurisdiction, I have considered the application of the defence and the respondent, and I hold that the EFCC is charged with the investigation and prosecution of all economic and financial crimes including, contract scams, money laundering, advance fee fraud etc, including the investigation and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws, also cause an investigation to whether an individual or company or anybody is likely to commit any crime.

“Since the instant charges brought against the defendant are economic and financial crimes in nature, the motion brought by the defendant lacks merit and is hereby dismissed.”

Regarding the legitimacy of the prosecution fiat the commission obtained from the Office of the Auditor-General rather than that of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the judge held that any other state, authority or person was eligible to institute criminal prosecution in the absence of the AGF.

“Even if the charge has no seal of the Attorney-General of the Federation, that does not stop the potency of the charge, as the Attorney-General may decide on any member of his department he wishes to delegate his powers to carry out his duties by law,” the judge said.

Justice Onwueguzie adjourned the matter till May 30 for continuation of trial.

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