*Photo: Saraki *
A Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, on Tuesday, adjourned two separate suits filed by former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a short ruling, said the adjournment was to await the report of the Court of Appeal on application for stay of proceedings filed by the ex-lawmaker.
Upon resumed hearing, Saraki’s lawyer, Tunde Afe-Babalola, SAN, informed that he had a pending application for stay of proceedings filed on July 30, 2021.
He said all the parties had been served and that they were ready to proceed.
The judge then asked whether the motion for relisting had been taken.
“Yes, we filed a stay at the Court of Appeal,” he responded.
But the EFCC’s counsel, Christopher Mshelia, who said he was not sure if the commission had been served, said he was not ready for today’s hearing.
Ekenma Okafor, who appeared for Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), said his client had not been served.
“I remember on one of the sittings, the counsel appearing for the applicant had given the court his word that he is withdrawing their appeal.
“We are surprised with this development,” Okafor said.
Afe-Babalola, who said he was not aware of Okafor’s information, said the important thing was that the motion was pending.
“If you had filed a stay at the Court of Appeal, why did you also file a stay here?
“If I grant you stay here, have I not done their duty at the Court of Appeal?” the judge asked.
Justice Ekwo, therefore, said he would give Afe-Babalola a date to enable him to sort himself out at the Court of Appeal and report back.
The matter was then adjourned until April 18 for report of proceedings at the Court of Appeal.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Ekwo had, on Jan. 25, 2023, struck out the suits for lack of diligent prosecution.
After the suits were struck out, Saraki file an application to relist the cases.
The motion on notice seeking an order of re-listing the suits was dated Feb. 1, 2023 and filed Feb. 3, 2023 by Sunday Onubi from Afe Babalola & Co Law Firm.
NAN reports that Saraki, the applicant, had filed the suits marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/507/2019 and FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2019 at the FHC.
In the suits, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Inspector-General (I-G) of Police and State Security Service (SSS) are 1st to 3rd defendants.
Others are EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and CCB as 4th to 6th respondents respectively.
The ex-senate president had filed the suits following the EFCC’s decision in 2019 to probe Saraki’s earnings between 2003 and 2011 when he was governor of Kwara.
The anti-graft commission was reported to have seized some of his houses in the Ikoyi area of Lagos then.
However, Saraki, on May 10, 2019, filed the two separate suits before retired Justice Taiwo Taiwo to challenge the action of the EFCC.
Justice Taiwo, who was the presiding judge then, ruled on an ex-parte application filed along with the substantive suits.
The judge ordered the anti-corruption agency (4th respondent) and the other five respondents to the suits to stay action on the probe pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed by the applicant.
The order was granted after Sunday Onubi, Saraki’s lawyer, moved the application, on May 14, 2019.
The court had directed the parties to maintain the status quo by suspending the probe.
But the EFCC later applied that the judge should recuse himself and the matter be transferred to another court.
Justice Taiwo sent back the case file to the chief judge and the matter was reassigned to Justice Anwuli Chikere for adjudication.
When the matter came up on July 14, 2021 before Justice Chikere, EFCC Counsel, Chile Okoronkwo, complained that Taiwo’s order had hindered the agency “from performing its duty for about two years now.”
The lawyer, who stated that Saraki continued to hinge on the order of the court any time he is invited, urged the court to vacate the order.
But the suits were reassigned to Justice Ekwo following the retirement of Chikere.(NAN)