Rickey Tarfa

A Lagos State High Court in Igbosere will on April 20 rule on an application by a Senior Nigerian lawyer, Mr Rickey Tarfa, seeking to quash a two-count charge of obstruction of justice and attempt to pervert the course of justice.

The charges were brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The court fixed the date after listening to arguments from counsels in the matter.

Arguing the preliminary objection on Monday, Mr Tarfa’s lawyer, Mr Jelili Owonikoko, said the offence was not an economic and financial crime and that the EFCC had no power to institute the charges.

Mr Owonikoko said two other judges, Justice Adebiyi and Justice Candid-Johnson, had already made pronouncements on similar cases, where they held that “outside of economic and financial crimes the EFCC has no right to prosecute general offences”.

Describing the charges as an abuse of the EFCC’s prosecutorial power, Mr Owonikoko said the charges against Tarfa arose from a civil case at the High Court.

He said the allegation that Tarfa had an unlawful conversation with Justice Yunusa was already the subject of a petition before the National Judicial Council and also the subject matter of an appeal before the Court of Appeal.

He urged Justice Opesanwo to resist an attempt by the EFCC to set her on a collision course with the Court of Appeal.

Mr Owoniko also said the charge against Tarfa was not competent because the EFCC did not seek legal advice from the Attorney General of Lagos State.

But counsel for the EFCC, Mr Gbolahan Latona, said the claim that the EFCC was abusing its prosecutorial power existed only in the imagination of the defendant.

Mr Latona said the offence with which Mr Tarfa was charged was captured in Section 38(2) of the EFCC Establishment Act, adding that Section 13(2) of the same Act also created a legal and prosecutorial unit in the EFCC to try the same offence.

He said that the EFCC Act, being a legislation of the National Assembly, must take precedent over the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State whenever there was a clash in their provisions.

The counsel for the EFCC also maintained that the offence of perversion of the course of justice fell within economic and financial crimes under Section 46 of the EFCC Act, 2004.

After listening to the parties, Justice Opesanwo adjourned ruling till April 20.

Tarfa was arraigned before Justice Opesanwo on February 16.

The EFCC accused the senior lawyer of wilfully obstructing two of its authorised operatives – Moses Awolusi and Sanusi Mohammed – from effecting the arrest of one Gnanhoue Sorou and Nazaire Modeste, “who were reasonably suspected to have committed economic and financial crimes”.

Tarfa was also accused of having an illegal telephone conversation with Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court to allegedly pervert the course of justice.

The EFCC accused him of violating Section 38(2) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 and Section 97(3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State No.11, 2011.

He was said to have committed the offences on February 5, 2016.

But Tarfa pleaded not guilty to both counts and was granted bail on self-recognisance.

He later filed a preliminary objection, challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the prosecutorial power of the EFCC to file the charges against him.

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