Law News
Dariye’s fraud trial resumes March 24

After eight years of being stalled by an interlocutory appeal finally dismissed by the Supreme Court on Friday, the trial of a former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye, for alleged corruption charges will resume on March 24.

It was learnt on Sunday that the prosecution is to call its first witness on March 24 which had already been scheduled before the Supreme Court judgment on Friday.

Dariye is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before Justice Adebukola Banjoko of a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Gudu, Abuja.

The EFCC had, on July 13, 2007 arraigned the former governor on 23 counts of money laundering and other corruption charges allegedly involving “billions of naira” belonging to the Plateau State Government.

The EFCC accused the former governor of, among others, diversion of about N1.2bn of the state’s ecological funds into the account of Ebenezer Ratnen Venture, which is one of the companies through which he allegedly siphoned the public funds.

Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who delivered the lead judgment on Friday paving the way for the trial to resume, described the scenario played out in the entire case as a “sad commentary” on the nation’s fight against corruption.

In a unanimous judgment by the five-man panel, the court ordered the accused to return to the Federal Capital Territory High Court to face his trial.

The Supreme Court described as unmeritorious Dariye’s   appeal against the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, on his preliminary objection challenging the competence of the charges instituted against him and the jurisdiction of the FCT high court to entertain the suit.

The appellant had contended that the FCT high court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit since the alleged offences involved funds belonging to the Plateau State Government.

He thus argued that he ought to have been tried in Jos and urged the court to quash the entire 23 counts profferred against him.

However, the apex court, in resolving all the four issues formulated against the former governor, held that the Court of Appeal was right to have affirmed the ruling of the FCT high court which had dismissed his notice of preliminary objection.

Justice Ngwuta held, “All the four issues determined by the court were resolved against the appellant.

“So, the appeal has no merit. It is hereby dismissed. The appellant should go back to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to stand his trial on the charges levelled against him.

“This is a sad commentary on our fight against corruption. Appeal dismissed.”

Justice Chima Nweze, while concurring with the judgment, also frown on the attitude of politically-exposed persons to deploy tactics to delay corruption cases instituted against them, as exemplified in Dariye’s case.

He held, “I have noticed a most worrying trend in most recent time, particularly among the politically– exposed citizens of this great country, imagining that they are above the laws of the land, have perfected some awkward and baseless tactics of delaying their trial when they run into conflict with the law.

“The appellant in this appeal falls into this category. In 2007, about eight years ago, leave was granted to the respondent to level charges against him. He was duly arraigned before the high court of the Federal Capital Territory.

“On November 13, the date set aside for the prosecution to marshal its witnesses, he implored the trial court to quash the charges against him on the grounds that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine the charges.

“When the application was dismissed, he proceeded to the Court of Appeal, Abuja division, which held and dismissed his appeal. Instead of returning to the trial court to face his trial, he appealed against the lower court’s judgment. I agree that this appeal is unmeritorious.”

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