N81.7m Enrichment Charge: Court Dismisses Justice Nganjiwa’s Stay of Proceedings Application
Justice Adedayo Akintoye of an Igbosere High Court, Lagos, on Friday dismissed Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa’s application seeking to stay proceedings in his trial over alleged corrupt enrichment to the tune of N81.7 million.
Nganjiwa, a judge of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa Division, is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged corrupt enrichment to the tune of 260,000 dollars and N8.7 million, totalling N81.7 million.
The federal high court judge had filed an application before Justice Akintoye, urging him to stay proceedings of the alleged corrupt enrichment case before his court.
Nganjiwa wants a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal’s decision where he is challenging the jurisdiction of the high court to try him.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendant’s counsel, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN), had moved a motion for the stay of proceeding pursuant to Sections 6(6) and 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Clarke said: “Whatever powers this court possess is subject to the Constitution, it is an application challenging Your Lordship’s jurisdiction.”
He argued that the court was bound to refrain from further action on the case, particularly since the appeal was set in motion before the defendant took his `not guilty’ plea.
“As of today, the Court of Appeal is fully seized of this matter. In those days, when we were younger, if a lower court disregarded the judgment of a higher court it was called judicial rascality,” he said.
Clarke contended that the application was constitutional not frivolous, adding that the issue involved was a “grey area of the law.”
“We urge Your Lordship to be on the side of caution and in the interest of justice and grant the application.”
But the Prosecutor, Mr Wahab Shittu, who stood in for Mr Rotimi Oyedepo,the EFCC counsel, opposed the application, describing it a time-wasting ploy.
“We are strongly opposing this application based on statutory provisions, particularly Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State and Section 40 of the EFCC Act, all of which prohibit the granting of stay of proceedings.
“The application by the learned silk is incompetent because the law does not allow it; the rationale for this is to forestall delay.
“Our courts frown at delay tactics by defence counsel. This application is an attempt to stall proceedings by counsel.
“I urge My Lord to dismiss the application and order the prosecution to commence its case,” he told the court.
But Akintoye, however, ruled that the defendant’s application was without merit.
The judge, who held that Nganjiwa’s application seemed like a delay tactics, added that his trial before his court would continue while the outcome of his appeal at the appellate court was being awaited.
“This court is not empowered to entertain any stay of proceedings or deferment of proceedings however it may be described in criminal matters.
“The judicial system has moved from delay tactics which may be brought to forestall the hearing of a case.
“As a result, this matter will continue today as we await the outcome of the decision of the esteemed Court of Appeal,” Akintoye ruled.
NAN also reports that the trial could not go on because counsel to the defendant, Clarke, requested for more time to study the application for proof of evidence served on the defendant on Thursday by the prosecution.
He said: “I am seeing the processes for the first time in this court. I need time to go through them.”
The Judge, however, granted his request and adjourned the case until Nov. 13 for trial.