A serving Senator, Albert Bassey, and oil baron, Olajide Jones Omokore who were accused of an alleged bribe of N254 million, on Wednesday continued to challenge the jurisdiction of an Ikeja Special Offences Court to try them.
The duo who were billed to be arraigned before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo were however absent in court.
According to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bassey, 45, who is representing Akwa-Ibom North-East, received twelve vehicles between 2010 and 2014 from Omokore, when he (Bassey) served as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance.
hey are both facing a 14-count charge bordering on corruption on the duo.
Their counsels, Solomon Umoh (SAN) and Olatunde Adejuyigbe (SAN) respectively, had earlier filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear their case.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, while moving their applications, their counsels contended that the court had no power to hear the substantive case.
Bassey’s counsel, Umoh SAN, argued that there was nothing before the court to prove that the alleged crime against Bassey was committed outside Akwa-Ibom or in Lagos State.
“There is nothing in the proof of evidence that suggested that any aspect of the alleged crime against the first defendant was committed outside Akwa-Ibom State and in Lagos State.
“Happily, the prosecution has narrowed everything down that it was cars that was delivered to the first defendant by the second defendant.
“So we want to ask where were the cars delivered to so we can know what Lagos has to do with Akwa-Ibom State but we have provided the answers in our argument, the cars were delivered in Akwa-Ibom State.
“If he (Bassey) received in Akwa-Ibom State, how come they are coming to try him in Lagos State.
“The prosecution have not shown how the first defendant came to Lagos to receive vehicles. They have not shown it anywhere in the proof of evidence.”
Umoh, who further argued that Bassey’s name was not mentioned in the petition written to the EFCC, urged the court to grant his application.
Similarly, Omokore’s counsel, Adejuyigbe, SAN argued that the contending issue was not insufficiency of evidence but whether they were in the right court.
He further argued that in determining the issue of jurisdiction, the court was not bound by the place stated in the charge.
He said, “The count against the second defendant relates to receiving gratification or giving bribe and the section under which those counts were charged did not statename of purchase, place of purchase, mode of payment so we cannot be asking the court to rewrite the law,” he maintained.
However, the prosecution counsel, Sadisu Abubakar, argued that the EFCC has the right to try the case before the court.
He added that the applicants tied the issue of jurisdiction to the issue of insufficiency of evidence which he noted was an abuse of the court processes.
The judge adjourned till February 20 for ruling on the issue of jurisdiction raised by the defence counsels.
The anti-graft comission alleged that Bassey received the bribes while serving as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance and Chairman of the Akwa-Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee.
The EFCC claimed that on May 10, 2010, Bassey allegedly corruptly received a BMW X5 BP worth N50m from Omokore and in December 2012, he received another Infinity QX 56 BP worth N45m from him.
On November 2013, the serving senator was alleged to have received a Toyota Landcruiser V8 BP valued at N40m and in March 2014, he was also alleged to have received a Range Rover, also valued at N40m from the businessman as well as in September 2014, another Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N27m.
Others vehicles received according to the EFCC are Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N16m and six units of Toyota Hilux vehicles valued at N36m.
The anti-graft commission claimed that the car gifts were given to Bassey by Omokore in exchange for contracts from the Akwa-Ibom Government.
The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene sections 63 (1)(a), 64 (1)(a) and 98(1), (a), (i) of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.