The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has refused an application by the former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh (retd), seeking to stop further hearing on the 10-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
At the resumed sitting on the matter on Wednesday, Badeh, through his lawyer, Mr. Samuel Zibiri, SAN, challenged the jurisdiction of the court to try him on the basis of the charge which he said was grossly defective. In his application dated March 15, Badeh argued that the charge did not disclose any offence known to money laundering Act, insisting that the charge lacked legal validity.
Relying on section 220 of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the former military chief urged the court to hear and determine the application first before delving into full-blown hearing of the substantive charge against him.
“Where the court is informed of the pendency of an application challenging its jurisdiction, the court is enjoined by plethora of legal authorities to settle the issue of jurisdiction first”, Badeh’s lawyer argued. However, EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, urged the court to disregard the application, saying it was a deliberate ploy by the defendant to stall the commencement of his trial.
Jacobs argued that sections 221 and 396(2) of the ACJA, 2015, provided that any objection challenging jurisdiction of the court or validity of a criminal charge must be considered alongside the substantive case. He contended that it was late in the day for Badeh to raise the objection since his trial has already commenced.
In his ruling, Justice Abang, said there are laid down procedures for the prosecution of criminal cases under the ACJA. “Having regards to section 396(2) of the ACJA, the application can only be considered alongside the substantive issue and ruling delivered along with judgment on the matter. “Section 221 of ACJA said objection shall not be entertained during proceeding or trial on the ground that a charge is defective.
The court can only entertain and make findings on the application at the end of the proceeding and ruling delivered when the matter is decided.
“Right of the defendant to be heard has been preserved till the end of the proceeding. It would have been a different matter if this is a civil matter or if it was raised before the enactment of the ACJA. As at today, the law has changed.
“The application is hereby refused. The prosecution is hereby directed to call its first witness for the trial to commence now”, the Judge held.
He however gave the prosecution seven days to respond to Badeh’s objection to the trial. The former CDS is facing trial over allegation that he fraudulently diverted about N3.9billion from account of the Nigerian Air Force within 2013.
The court earlier granted him bail to the tune of N2billion. He was in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/46/2016, alleged to have used the looted funds to purchase choice properties within the highbrow areas in Abuja. EFCC equally cited a firm, Iyalikam Nigerian Limited, as the 2nd defendant in the charge bordering on money laundering, corruption and criminal breach of trust.