A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday, dismissed an application by four companies that pleaded guilty to laundering 15.5million dollars allegedly owned by former first lady, Patience Jonathan.
The companies are Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd; Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Ltd; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned the company, alongside a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer Amajuoyi Briggs, and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
They were arraigned on 17 counts.
While the companies had pleaded guilty to the charges, Messrs Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty.
The court had accordingly convicted the companies.
Meanwhile, the companies through their lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, had asked the court to reverse the guilty pleas of the companies and nullify previous proceedings on grounds that those who represented the company were not authorised to do so.
The defence counsel had told Justice Babs Kuewumi that the companies were not given a fair trial before their conviction because they had no legal representation of their choice at the time.
Mr Ozekhome said that he was briefed to represent the companies after its directors had pleaded guilty inspite of not being authorised by the board to do so.
Moving his motion seeking to set aside the companies conviction, Mr Ozekhome had argued that they were convicted “in gross violation” of the 1999 Constitution, which he said occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
He had urged that the trial be done “de novo” (afresh) and that the previous proceedings be declared null, void and unsustainable in law.
He said that the application was on the ground 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, Mr Ozekhome said that the companies were denied the right to cross-examine the purported directors who had pleaded guilty.
He said that they were just busybodies and interlopers, who were pressurised to come and plead guilty, adding that they had no mandate to do so.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, had in response, 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 that there was evidence that they were indeed the companies’ directors from the Corporate Affairs Commission and from the companies’ bank accounts.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Justice Kuewumi held that a lower court could only reverse itself 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.
“Iam in agreement with the prosecution that this application is incompetent, It is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed,” he held.
The court adjourned until Oct.17 for hearing.