Alleged Wike Bribe to INEC Staff: Court Orders Transfer of Defendants to Port Harcourt for Trial

A Federal High Court in Abuja, Monday morning, ordered the transfer to Port Harcourt of charges filed against 23 staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who were accused of collecting bribes from the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, to influence the outcome of the re-run elections in the state in December 2016.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation had on March 7, this year, arraigned the accused persons for allegedly receiving N360m from Governor Wike as bribe for the re-run election which took place in the state on December 10, 2016.
The were arraigned before the Justice John Tsoho on a seven-count charge.
However, their counsel, Ahmed Raji, had filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
Raji had on the last adjourned date urged the court to decline hearing of the charge on grounds of territorial jurisdiction.
Alternatively, the defence asked the court for an order transferring the matter to the Port-Harcourt division of the court.
Raji argued that having been accused of collecting the alleged bribe in Rivers State, the court in Abuja lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the case.
According to Raji, “All the acts being complained about took place in Rivers State.
“None of the defendants is resident here (Abuja).
“This is a motion that should be resolved one way or the other.
“We urge your lordship to stay the issue of plea pending the resolution of this motion. Then if my lord affirms the territorial integrity of the court, we can go on with the trial.”
He had also argued that the defendants’ trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja was in breach of the Constitution and the Criminal Justice Act.
The prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Alilu, however, argued that there was insecurity in Rivers State, which could interfere with the trial.
Alilu urged the court to dismiss the defendants’ application challenging the court’s jurisdiction as it lacked merit.
Justice Tsoho, ruling on the notice of preliminary objection, Monday, held that the charges ought to be filed in the Rivers State capital, Port Harcourt, where the alleged offences were allegedly committed.
He held that the prosecution was unable to provide any cogent evidence of insecurity in Port Harcourt to justify the filing of the charges in Abuja.
Justice Tsoho held that the impression created by the prosecution that there was “pervasive insecurity” and that the city had become ungovernable was not backed with any evidence.
He also held that the “frightening pictures” attached to the prosecution’s counter-affidavit had no proof of location and time of the incidents, adding that there was no evidence presented to the court to back the claim by the prosecution that there were daily reports of threat by cult groups in the state.
He ruled that in the absence of such evidence, provisions of section 93 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, which both provided that charges must be filed in the area or place where the alleged offences were committed “shall apply”
He stated that the responsibility of providing security in any part of the country rests on the security operatives and not the court.
“I haven’t found out that Rivers State has become ungovernable based on the alleged security situation in the state.
“Also, in line with Section 93 Sub 1and 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, which states that the trial of a case should take place where the offence was committed, I hereby transfer the case,” he said
The Judge then ordered the transfer of the case to Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court for the arraignment of the defendants.

Author: News Editor

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