The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has proceeded on appeal in the prosecution of an Abuja- based lawyer, Barrister Amobi Nzelu who is being tried on a three count-charge bordering on impersonation and criminal misappropriation of the sum of N6. 8 million.
In a notice of appeal filed at the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja , the Commission is asking the appellate court to reverse the ruling of a Federal High Court delivered on February 7, 2012 quashing all the charges against Nzelu on the strength of preliminary objection before the trial process.
Nzelu’s ordeal followed a two- page petition, authored by the Managing Director of Range Multi Universal Limited, Omulu Charles Chinweuba, dated June 14, 2010 and addressed to the Chairman of the EFCC. It is entitled: Petition against Barrister Amobi Nzelu for impersonation and fraudulently obtaining the sum of N6. 850 Million by false pretences in the name of the Nigerian Customs Service. He was docked on Monday, January 17, 2011 before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja.
In the appeal filed by the prosecution counsel, Barrister Wahab Shittu, ground one of the appeal states that the learned judge wrongly and incorrectly stated the provision of Section 14(1) (a) of the Money Laundering Act 2004 on page 17 of the Ruling. The EFCC also pointed out that the learned judge wrongly constructed the purport and effect of Section 33(2) of the Federal High Court Act stipulating that “All criminal course of matters shall be tried summarily.
According to the third ground of the appeal, the learned judge erred in law when in constructing the provision of Section 217 of Criminal Procedure Act vis-à-vis the plea of not guilty, His lordship held that the Accused “….challenged the charge against him and be deemed to have put himself upon his trial”; while the fourth ground held that the trial judge erred when His Lordship held that “The decision I have reached is that the charge dated 11/11/10 is nothing but a gross abuse of the court process”.
The EFCC also disagreed with the judge and maintained that the judge erred by holding that the counts in the charge against the accused person were “hollow and lacks any credible materials upon which a prima facie case can be sustained even when those facts are proved against the accused person”.
While seeking the setting aside of the ruling, the EFCC argued that the ruling of the trial judge quashing the charge is wrong against the weight of evidence and the spirit and intendment of 14(1) (a) and 17 of the Money Laundering Act 2004. The anti-graft agency is therefore praying the appellate court to direct the trial of the accused person by another judge of the Federal High Court having regard to the prejudicial conclusions on the merits of the case reached by the learned trial judge.
It would be recalled that the petitioner had alleged that sometimes in February 2010, he was introduced to the accused person who claimed to be an agent of the Nigerian Customs, with the understanding that he was in a position to assist in their business relationship with the Nigeria Customs Service. “Thereafter, we intimated the suspect of our intention to buy/acquire some containers of goods which he convinced us that he was in a position to help us.
Our negotiations progressed smoothly and he eventually demanded that we should give him the sum of N6.850 million being the cost of 2 times 40 ft containers”, the petitioner alleged. According to the petition, “So far, we have parted with the above sum of money to Amobi Nzelu but the suspect has not been able to deliver his promise to us and has refused to return our money.
Media & Publicity Unit
24th February, 2012.