Twenty three officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who were arraigned at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, March 14, have rejected their trial.
At the resumed trial, the counsels to the defense to Justice John Tsoho that there is a pending application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter, Punch reports.
Just before the charges were read to the defendants, counsel to 20 of the defendants Ahmed Raji told the court that his team had filed a motion challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the court on the matter.
Raji said the crime for which his clients were being accused of happened in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
He added that the Abuja division of the Federal High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
“We have a motion dated March 13, 2017, challenging the territorial jurisdiction of this court,” Raji said.
“All the acts being complained about took place in Rivers state, none of the defendants is resident here.
“This is a motion that should be resolved one way or the other,” Raji said.
He further urged the court to stay the issue of plea pending the resolution of the motion before the court.
“Then if my lord affirms the territorial integrity of the court, we can go on with the trial.”
Also, in agreement to Raji’s submission, two defense lawyers informed the court of their plans to file a similar motion.
In his response, the prosecuting counsel A. K Akilu told the court that he was ready to object the proposed application.
The matter was later adjourned to Friday, April 7 for hearing of the motions.
The INEC officials – three state coordinators and 20 other officials – were charged for receiving N360 million bribe from the governor of Rivers state Nyesom Wike during the rerun election in the state.
The crime, the police alleged were committed between December 7 and 10, 2016, are in violation to various provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment, etc) Act, 2004.
The defendants include: Shittu Mohammed Lamido (Shettima), Henry Owokure, Peter Ewetade, Mrs Mary Jummai Tunkoyo Pennap, Gwatana Jibril, Ivase Stephen and Abdullahi Ogabo.
Others are: Gayus Hassan, Hussaini T. Yahaya, James Ogwuche, Karimu F. Aminu and Adedokun Najeem Ayotunde.
Also included in the charges are: Balogun Funmilayo and Adams O. Kadiri, Akinwande R. Adesoji, Lukeman Olabimpe, Tiamiyu R. Arowolo, Akinwoye Amodu, Nwoha Yusuf, Patrick Anuke, Iro Abali, Nwosu G. Oluchi and Arukwe Chinelo.
The officials were accused of professional misconduct during the rerun election in various local government areas of Rivers state.
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