A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, adjourned till February 20, rule on an application by embattled former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Timipre Sylva, seeking to quash the fraud charge preferred against him by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. The case is before Justice Adamu Bello.
Meanwhile, Justice A. Muhammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, also granted the application by EFCC for an extension of the interim order of attachment granted it to take possession of 48 property of Sylva. The initial order granted on December 21, 2012, was for 14 days.
The court in a ruling by an application by EFCC, noted that aside from the fact that the commission had applied for the extension of the order before the expiration of the subsisting one, it (court) was granting the extension because the order was the crux of the matter.
“If I do not do so, the question would be why and what are we coming here to deliberate on next time. The order of December 21, is the main thrust of this matter, the court must order for its existence to enable the respondent to be heard,” the court said.
Sylva is facing a six-count criminal charge of alleged pilfering of about N6.5billion from the Bayelsa State treasury while he was in power. He is contending that EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie evidence linking him to the alleged offence.
Sylva’s counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, had prayed the trial judge, Justice Bello to dismiss the charge in its entirety for being incompetent and amounting to an abuse of judicial process.
“Our position is that there is no nexus between the charge and the proof of evidence and the accused person.
“Section 33 of the Federal High Court Act does not say that you cannot ask for proof of evidence in any event the position of the Federal High Court Act is that the Constitution is superior.
“Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution provides for fair hearing. This application has merit because the charge is an abuse of court process which is tantamount to lack of jurisdiction,” he argued.
EFCC opposed the application, asking the court to disregard same and proceed with hearing of the case on its merit.
Urging the court to discountenance the application, EFCC counsel, Mr Festus Keyamo, told the court that Sylva had never asked the agency to furnish him with the proof of evidence against him.
“We submit that Section 33 of the FHC Act, which said this court has summary jurisdiction, does not support the argument that the court can strike out the charges because of proof of evidence. There is no indication that what we attached to the charges is all that we intend to lead during trial. The accused person has a right, under Section 36, to ask for proof of evidence.
“The accused person has not even asked for proof of evidence – there has been no single request of proof of evidence up till now. It is up to him to request – it is just magnanimity.”
The court adjourned till February 20 to rule on the application.
EFCC had in the charge, alleged that the fraud was perpetuated between October 2009 and February 2010.
It alleged that Sylva, connived with others at large to loot the funds, noting that the crime was perfected under the false pretence that the monies were used to argument the salaries of civil servants in Bayelsa State.