Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has dismissed the 50-count charge of money laundering preferred against Bayelsa State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Timipre Sylva and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The judge, in a ruling yesterday on the preliminary objection by Sylva and two others, held that his court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the charge, which he said was an abuse of process.
Justice Ademola said since one of two similar charges filed by the EFCC against Sylva and others had been dismissed and the other struck out, the decision to consolidate the earlier charges in the new one showed desperation to convict them at all costs.
The EFCC filed the fresh charge on June 12 shortly after Justice Armed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, dismissed an earlier charge, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/167, which the commission filed against Sylva and others.
Also, Justice Evoh Chukwu of the same court struck out another charge filed against Sylva.
The new charge had Sylva, Francis Okokuro, Gbenga Balogun, Samuel Ogbuku, Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited as defendants.
They were accused of using the companies to launder about N19.2 billion from Bayelsa State coffers between 2009 and 2012, under false pretences of using the money to augment workers’ salaries.
Justice Ademola noted that since a judge of the court (Justice Mohammed) had dismissed a similar charge, the only option for the prosecution was to appeal the decision rather than bring a fresh charge containing the same facts and on the same issues before his court.
“The ruling of my brother Justice A. R. Mohammed, dismissing the earlier charge, still subsists. That ruling ended the jurisdiction of this court; until it is set aside by a superior court, this court lacks the jurisdiction to hear this charge.
On hearing the judge’s pronouncement, Sylva, dressed in white traditional attire and cap, smiled broadly as he shook hands with his co-accused, who sat close to him.
When the judge rose, an elated Sylva went to where his lawyers were seated and shook hands with them, with the lawyers chorusing: “Congratulations, your Excellency,” to which he responded, “thank you.”