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LEGAL

EFCC competent to prosecute fuel subsidy fraud suspects

A Lagos High Court in Ikeja has upheld the competence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to prosecute two oil marketers accused of being involved in a N1.5bn fuel subsidy fraud.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu, in a ruling on Wednesday, dismissed a preliminary objection by the oil marketers, Aro Bamidele and Abiodun Bankole, challenging the competence of the charges and EFCC’s power to prosecute them. Okunnu said the marketers’ application lacked merit, declaring that the Attorney-General of the Federation and the EFCC validly instituted the charges.

The judge also dismissed their argument that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State prohibited the AGF and EFCC from prosecuting offences created by the state in its courts. Okunnu said, “By the virtue of Section 211 of the Constitution and relevant provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the EFCC can properly and validly institute charges with reference to laws enacted by the state House of Assembly in any court in the country.

“Both bodies can validly do so, even without the fiat of the Attorney-General of the state. In hierarchy, the constitution and the EFCC Act are superior to the laws enacted by the state House of Assembly.” The judge stated that the EFCC, as a federal agency prosecuting cases at the state high courts, was not different from the police prosecuting offenders on laws created by the state at the magistrates’ courts.

Bamidele and Bankole alongside their firm, A.B.S Investment Company Limited, are facing 18 counts of subsidy fraud, forgery, uttering of documents and conspiracy. The anti-graft agency had alleged that the defendants, between March and June 2011, fraudulently obtained N1.3bn from the Federal Government under the fuel subsidy regime.

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