Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Tuesday, dismissed an application by four companies which pleaded guilty to laundering $15.5 million allegedly belonging to former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan.
The companies: Pluto Property and Investment company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Transocean Property and investment company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited, had prayed the court to reverse their guilty pleas and nullify the previous proceedings because those who represented the company were not authorised to do so.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned them with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs, who is the companies’ Secretary, and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku of the Skye Bank Plc.
Unlike the companies, Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
The companies’ lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), told Justice Kuewumi that his clients were not given a fair trial before their conviction because they had no legal representation of their choice.
Ozekhome said he was briefed to represent the companies after its directors pleaded guilty despite not being authorised by the board to do so.
Moving his motion seeking to set aside the companies conviction, Ozekhome said they were convicted “In gross violation” of the 1999 Constitution, which he said, occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
He prayed that the trial be done de novo (afresh) and that the previous proceedings be declared null, void and unsustainable in law.
The application, he said, was on the grounds that the court failed to pass a sentence on the convicted companies as the judge reserved sentence until end of the other defendants’ trial.
Besides, Ozekhome said the companies were denied the right to cross-examine the purported directors who purportedly pleaded guilty.
“They’re just busybodies and interlopers who were pressure to come and plead guilty. They had no mandate to do so,” he said.
But, Prosecuting Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to refuse the application for being an abuse of court process.
According to him, it amounted to asking the judge to revisit his ruling and to assume the position of an appellate court.
He denied that the directors who pleaded guilty were not authorised to do so, saying there was evidence that they were indeed the companies’ directors from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and from the companies’ bank accounts.
At the proceedings, the companies were represented by Mr. Oluigbo O, who held the brief of Chief Mike Ozakhome (SAN), Mr. Ademola Adefolaju, who stood in for Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), for Dudafa, and Ige Asemudara, who represented Briggs.
Ruling on the application, Justice Kuewumi held that a lower court could only reserve himself in exceptional cases where there is “a serious procedural irregularity” or where the court lacks jurisdiction.
“The main issue to be addressed in this application is whether this court can revisit its earlier decision whereby the applicants were convicted.
“Once a court gives an order or judgment, it has no legal competence to reverse itself or set aside its previous order.
“Considering the circumstances of this case, I have not been shown any valid reason to make me revisit my decision. This court is already functus officio.
“I’m in agreement with the prosecution that this application is incompetent. It is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed,” the judge held.
The matter has been adjourned until October 17 for hearing.