Law News
N25.7bn fraud: Court decides Atuche’s fate April 13

A Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has slated April 13, 2015 to rule on an application filed by a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, seeking the dismissal of the N25.7bn theft charges proffered against him.

Atuche is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside his wife, Elizabeth, and a former Chief Financial Officer of the defunct bank, Ugo Anyanwu, for alleged N25.7bn fraud.

Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, on Monday, adjourned ruling on Atuche’s application after the judge had entertained submissions from the parties.

Atuche’s lawyer, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), had contended that Lawal-Akapo had no jurisdiction to preside over his client’s trial and therefore asked that the charges be accordingly dismissed.

Oyetibo said the charges against Atuche bordered on issues which derived from capital market transactions, over which he said only a Federal High Court could adjudicate.

The counsel pointed the attention of the court to the decision of the Court of Appeal, which, on November 21, 2014, struck out the theft charges levelled against a former Managing Director of Finbank Plc, Mr. Okey Nwosu and others.

Oyetibo submitted, “The Court of Appeal in Nwosu’s case held that the Lagos State High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the charge because it emanated from capital market transactions.

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

He also referred Lawal-Akapo to the judgment of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal on December 31, 2014, wherein the higher court struck out fraud charges against a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr. Erastus Akingbola.

Oyetibo stressed that the charges against Atuche were similar to those against Nwosu and Akingbola, having derived from capital market transactions.

But opposing Oyetibo’s submission, the EFCC, through its lawyer, Miss Chinenye Ugwuagu, maintained that appellate court’s decision in the cases of Nwosu and Akingbola were not applicable in Atuche’s case.

Describing Atuche’s application for dismissal of the charges as frivolous and vexatious, Ugwuagu urged Lawal-Akapo to discountenance the application and assume jurisdiction over the case.

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