An Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure, the state capital, has dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Bamidele Oleyeloogun, and two others to prevent them from being tried for alleged fraud.
Oloyeloogun and a lawmaker, Felemu-Gudu Bankole, and one Segun Bankole, an employee of the Assembly, were dragged before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged misappropriation of N2.4million belonging to the state Assembly. But the defendants filed preliminary objections in court against their trial by the commission.
When the case came up for hearing on Wednesday, the defendants, through their counsel, Mr Femi Emodamori, argued that the EFCC did not have the power to prosecute offences affecting the finances and assets of the state, noting that the Assembly had enacted a law to tackle corruption allegations in the state.
The defence counsel prayed the court to decline jurisdiction and strike out the charges against them because the EFCC had no right to prosecute them as the assets they were facing trial for belonged to the state.
He maintained that the EFCC had no right to prosecute the defendants for alleged corruption as the state Public Complaint Financial Crimes and Anti Corruption Commission Law was passed into law and signed by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in January 2022.
But the counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Fredrick Dibang, argued that the court had jurisdiction because the state law enacted by the state Assembly was contrary to the Acts of the National Assembly that established the EFCC. He pointed out that once there was a conflict between the law of a state and that of the National Assembly, the law of the state is suspended.
Dibang said the Assembly passed the law to frustrate the trial of lawmakers and the civil servants for the alleged abuse of office and corruption.
In his ruling, the Judge , Justice Adegboyega Adebusoye, held that the EFCC had the power to investigate and prosecute the defendants for the alleged fraud.
The judge said, “The offences being against the defendants are not state offences promulgated by the state legislation but a federal offence, having being promulgated by the National Assembly, though relates to finances of Ondo State.
“Without wasting the time of this court, it settles that the complainant is empowered to investigate and prosecute the three defendants on the two counts as stated in the information file, being federal offences and even though the alleged ones involved belong to the Ondo State government.”
The judge dismissed the preliminary objection as filed by the defendants, saying the court would assume jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter. He adjourned the trial to April 24 and 25, 2023.