An Abuja High Court has fixed February 26, 2024, to hear a motion filed by the former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute him.
Agunloye has been accused by the corruption agency of complicity in a $6 billion contract fraud,
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The EFCC alleged that Agunloye, who served as a minister between 1999 and 2003 under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, illegally awarded a contract for the construction of a 3,960 megawatts Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on a Build, Operate and Transfer Basis.
The agency told the court that the contract, which was awarded to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited, was done without any budgetary provision, approval, or cash backing.
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Agunloye was equally alleged to have corruptly received a kickback to the tune of N3.6 million from the company to which he awarded the contract. However, the defendant, who had also served as a Minister of State for Defence, pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge against him.
At the resumed proceedings in the matter, yesterday, the 76-year-old defendant, via a motion marked: M/3736/2024, queried the powers of the EFCC to try him over the alleged offences. He contended that the agency was bereft of both the investigative and prosecutorial powers under the EFCC Act, 2004, to initiate the case against him.
He also maintained that the offences in the charge bordered on his activities as a public officer, his alleged disobedience to presidential directives, as well as the alleged forgery of a letter dated May 22, 2003.
These allegations, according to him, do not constitute financial crimes, which can be lawfully investigated and prosecuted by the EFCC, pursuant to its powers under sections 6, 7, and 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act and in consonance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Nwobike v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2022).
Meanwhile, Agunloye has filed another motion for an order of the court to restrain the anti-graft agency from inviting, intimidating, or harassing his sureties, as well as for an order to vary the bail conditions the court gave to him on January 11, which mandated his sureties to provide evidence of their ownership of a property worth N300 million.
The defendant told the court that the EFCC had “repeatedly harassed, threatened, and invited his sureties for investigation,” an action, he said, was “actuated by bad faith for the sureties to withdraw their surety-ship and thereby create an uneven playing field in the prosecution of the case.”
The trial judge, Jude Onwuegbuzie, adjourned the matter till February 26, 2024 to hear the applications.
Photo Credit: Getty