The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal bordering on the validity of two of the money laundering charges instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, and his company, Destra Investments Limited.
In a unanimous judgment of its five-man panel, the Supreme Court on Friday described the appeal filed on behalf of Destra Investments Limited as “storm in the teacup.”
Justice Kumai Akaahs, who read the lead judgment of the apex court, berated the company’s lawyer, Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, for pursuing such an appeal to the level of the apex court despite the clear provisions of the law supporting the decision of the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on the issue.
According to Justice Akaahs, the decision of Justice Abang, which was being challenged by Destra, was right, as it was in line with the provisions of Section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
The provision states that after taking plea, a defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge at any time before judgment “provided that such objection can only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling delivered on it at the time of delivery of judgment”.
Expressing surprise that a Senior Advocate could pursue such appeal to the level of the Supreme Court, Justice Akaahs said, “Despite these clear provisions, learned senior counsel still came up to this court challenging the ruling of the trial court.
“I find that there is no merit in the appeal; it is a storm in a teacup.”
The Justice of the apex court said a lawyer of Onwugbufor’s calibre ought to help in “ensuring orderly development of the society through strict adherence to the rule of law.”
He added that as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Onwugbufor ought to only help his client to clear its name and not to erect “roadblocks to frustrate justice from running its course.”
Justice Akaahs said, “Whether a person or company or person has been accused of an infraction of the law, the duty that a senior counsel owes by the privileges bestowed on him is to help the accused person or company clear their name through due legal process and not to create the impression that his duty is to erect roadblocks to frustrate justice from running its course.
“The case is remitted to the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for speedy conclusion.”
In his contribution, another member of the Justice Dattijo Mohamed-led Supreme Court panel, Justice Ejembi Eko, described Onwugbufor’s appeal as “frivolous, vexatious and unbecoming of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”
According to Justice Eko, the appeal was meant to frustrate the provisions of Section 36(1) of the Constitution, which provides for a speedy trial, and Section 396(2) of the ACJA.
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A Report Of The Judgement Of The 16 Divisions Of The Court Of Appeal In Nigeria