Nigeria News

Nigeria: Daniel loses bid to stop land fraud charges

An Ogun State High Court in Abeokuta on Tuesday struck out an application by former Governor Gbenga Daniel, seeking the quashing of the land fraud charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Daniel is facing 38 counts of stealing, fraudulent conversion of public lands and diversion of funds, among others in the court.

The former governor’s lead counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), had last October requested the court to strike out the 13 charges which he said bordered on alleged illegal land acquisition.

Another counsel for Daniel, Tayo Oyetibo, (SAN), had last December prayed the court to strike out the charges, saying the continued hearing of the allegations against his client would amount to injustice.

He argued among others that a commission of enquiry set up by the state government had already found Daniel guilty and that the findings had been made public.

Oyetibo had argued that the state government by setting up a commission of inquiry, issuing a White Paper on its findings and giving it wide publicity, had put the court, presided over by Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje, in a very difficult situation.

But ruling on Daniel’s application on Tuesday, Mabekoje said the Commission of Inquiry, which was set up based on the Commission of Inquiry Law of Ogun State, 2006, could not be equated with a tribunal or court of law.

According to the judge, the commission findings could not be regarded as a conviction or judgment.

Mabekoje also ruled that Daniel’s position that continued hearing of land fraud charges would amount to double jeopardy was misconceived “because the accused person has not been tried or convicted by any law court.”

On the argument that the charges were an abuse of court process, the judge declared that it was an improper use of judicial process.

According to him, what the court would determine was the criminality or otherwise of charges.

He added that the setting up of a commission of inquiry by the state government was done in pursuant of an existing law of the state and that it did not amount to an abuse of court process.

Mabekoje held that the state government could not be said to have acted in contempt of the court, stressing that the commission was set up before the information was filed before the court.

The judge also ruled that it would be wrong to argue that Daniel had been found guilty in the instant case since the matter had not been adjudicated upon by any competent court of law.

He said, “Since the applicant has also made an attempt at a court of coordinate jurisdiction to quash the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, it is my view that the findings and the said publication have no effect on this court.

“The issues dealt with by the commission are different from the live case before this court and there is no justifiable evidence to support the argument that the publication is capable of causing double jeopardy on the applicant.

“There is no basis to the orders sought by the applicant and it will be unjust and unreasonable to grant the application. I therefore make an order dismissing the application.”

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