Law News
EFCC wants indefinite adjournment in Atuche’s trial

A Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has adjourned till April 22 to hear an application seeking an indefinite adjournment in the trial of a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, accused of N25.7bn theft.

Though the trial judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, had fixed Monday to rule on Atuche’s application seeking to quash the charges, he however adjourned following the application seeking a sine die adjournment.

The application was filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Its counsel, Dele Adesina (SAN), said the EFCC is currently before the Supreme Court challenging a certain judgment of Appeal Court given on November 21, 2013.

The judgment was in the case of a former Managing Director of Finbank Plc, Mr. Okey Nwosu, who the appellate court absolved of theft charges on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction.

Relying on the appellate court judgment, Atuche, through his lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), had asked Lawal-Akapo to dismiss the theft charges against him.

Oyetibo had maintained that Nwosu and Atuche’s cases were similar because they emanated from capital market transactions.

“The appellate court held that such capital market-based matter was an exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court,” Oyetibo argued.

He  also referred Lawal-Akapo to the judgment of the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court in the case of the former MD of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola.

According to him, the appellate court on December 31, 2014 struck out the case against Akingbola on the same grounds.

After listening to Oyetibo on March 2, Lawal-Akapo had fixed Monday for ruling.

But at the resumed session on Monday, the EFCC counsel, Adesina, urged the judge to adjourn the ruling indefinitely, saying the EFCC had filed an appeal against the appellate court judgment at the Supreme Court.

He said the matter was being granted expeditious hearing due to its importance.

Lawal-Akapo, However, noted that going by the judicial practice directive, a high-profile matter like that of Atuche was meant to be given priority.

The judge said nobody could predict the time the Supreme Court would arrive at its verdict in the said appeal.

He observed that lower court judges had waited for more than a year for clarification by  the Supreme Court on the ruling given by the Court of Appeal in Nwosu’s case.

Responding, Atuche’s lawyer, Oyetibo, asked the court to reject the application, arguing that it was aimed at truncating the ruling.

Lawal-Akapo subsequently adjourned the matter till April 22 for arguments on the application.

Atuche, alongside his wife, Elizabeth and a former Chief Financial Officer of Bank PHB, Ugo Anyanwu, are being prosecuted for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion from the bank.

Click here to read from source.