23 INEC Staff Accused of Bribery in Rivers: Court Has No Jurisdiction to Try Us

The 23 staff of the Indepedent National Electoral Commission (INEC) accused of collecting bribes to influence the outcome of Rivers State rerun elections December last year, have challenged the the jurisdiction of a Federal High Court, Abuja, to try them.
When the case came up, Tuesday, counsel to the defendants objected to their trial in Abuja, saying, the acts which they were being
charged took place far away from the court.
The lead counsel to the accused (1st – 21st defendants), Ahmed Raji said that he has filed a motion to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of the court to try them.
He said before they could be arraigned the issue of jurisdiction must be addressed.
He argued that where the acts took place is far away from where they were being arraigned, and so he wanted the issue resolved.
He said the accused came from various stations, where they work, so the issue of jurisdiction should be resolved before plea is taken.
Other defence counsel aligned themselves with Raji’s line of argument, adding issue of jurisdiction has to be settled.
The prosecution counsel, A K Halilu , said he was not objecting to defendants’ counsel arguments, rather, he would file a response to their application.
“We agreed that the issue of jurisdiction is fundamental we also agree to respond to the motion”, he said
Defendants counsel pleaded that their clients should continue to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted them.
Subsequently, trial Judge, Justice John Tsoho adjourned the matter to April 7 for arguments on issue of jurisdiction.
Attorney General of the Federation had slammed a seven count charge on the 23 INEC officials, who were alleged to have received various sums of money as bribes during the legislative rerun elections.
The accused persons named in the charges marked FHC/ABJ/CR/42/2017, were said to include three state coordinators of the electoral body.
The prosecution in the charges alleged that the N360m bribe which the 23 defendants allegedly received from Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike represented proceeds of the Governor’s criminal conduct as well as economic and financial crimes.
The 23 INEC officials allegedly between December 7 and 10, 2016 “converted”, “concealed”, “were in possession” and “used” the sum of N360m bribe in violations of various provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment, etc) Act, 2004.
The accused included, Shittu Mohammed Lamido (Shettima), Henry Owokure, Peter Ewetade, Mrs Mary Jummai Tunkoyo Pennap, Gwatana Jibril, Ivase Stephen and Abdullahi Ogabo.
Also named as part of the defendats were, Gayus Hassan, Hussaini T. Yahaya, James Ogwuche, Karimu F. Aminu and Adedokun Najeem Ayotunde.
The defendants also included Balogun Funmilayo and Adams O. Kadiri, Akinwande R. Adesoji, Lukeman Olabimpe and Tiamiyu R. Arowolo.
The rest were, Akinwoye Amodu, Nwoha Yusuf, Patrick Anuke, Iro Abali, Nwosu G. Oluchi and Arukwe Chinelo.
In Count 1, the prosecution alleged that the defendants “all electoral officers and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission between December 7 to 10, 2016 at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, did conspire to convert the sum of N360,000,000 directly from bribery and corruption in connection with the Rivers State re-run election which took place on December 10, 2016.”
In Count 2, the prosecution alleged that the accused persons, 2 “did convert the sum of N360,000,000 being money derived directly from bribery and corruption in connection with the Rivers State rerun election which took place on December 10, 2016, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the money.”
In Count 3, it was alleged that the accused persons “did collaborate to conceal the sum of N360,000,000 being money derived directly from bribery and corruption in connection with the Rivers State rerun election which took place on December 10, 2016.”
In Count 4, it was alleged that the defendants “all electoral officers and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission between December 7 and 10, 2016, at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, did commit an offence to wit: possession of the sum of N360,000,000 being money you received from Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, knowing that the said money represented proceeds of bribery and corruption in connection with the Rivers State rerun election which took place on December 10, 2016.”
The prosecution alleged in Count 5, that the defendants “all electoral officers and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission between December 7 and 10, 2016, at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, did commit an offence to wit: used the sum of N360,000,000 being money you received from Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, knowing that the said money represented proceeds of bribery and corruption in connection with the Rivers State rerun election which took place on December 10, 2016.”
The prosecution also in Count 6 alleged that the accused persons, “all electoral officers and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission between December 7 and 10, 2016, at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, did commit an offence to wit: possession of the sum of N360,000,000 being money you received from Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, knowing that the said money represented proceeds of economic and financial crime to wit: bribery and corruption in connection with the Rivers State rerun elThe accused persons named in the charges marked FHC/ABJ/CR/42/2017, were said to include three state coordinators of the electoral body.
It alleged in Count 7 that the defendants “did commit an offence to wit: used the sum of N360,000,000 being ng money you received from Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, knowing that the said money represented proceeds of economic and financial crime to wit: bribery and corruption in connection with the Rivers State rerun election which took place on December 10, 2016.”

Author: News Editor

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