Embattled Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Rickey Tarfa, on Thursday sought N500million from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as damages for what he described as malicious prosecution.
Tarfa through his counsel Abiodun Owonikoko SAN in an application before an Igbosere High Court in Lagos where he is standing trial, said he had no case to answer in EFCC’s charges against him.
Tarfa filed a no case submission before Justice Adedayo Akintunde pointing out that the 26-count charge of alleged bribery and attempt to pervert the course of justice was malicious.
He prayed the court to make an example of the anti-graft agency and slam the hammer on it by awarding him N500m as damages.
Tarfa was first arraigned in March 2016 by the anti-graft agency.
Recall that on October 23, the anti-graft agency closed its case against the defendant following which he indicated his intention to file a no-case submission.
However, at Thursday’s proceedings, Owonikoko countered EFCC’s claims that Tarfa refused and failed to declare his assets, contrary to the EFCC Act.
He also brought to light count three that Tarfa lied about his age during interrogation on February 5, 2016, at the commission’s Lagos office, which Owonikoko described as a mistake.
Owonikoko also contested the charge that the defendant offered gratification to Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa.
He submitted, among others, that the EFCC failed to link to Justice Nganjiwa, the deposits made by Tarfa to the accounts of a firm, Awa Ajia Nigeria Ltd.
According to him, Tarfa has never handled a case before Justice Nganjiwa.
He suggested that the EFCC ought to have invited Justice Nganjiwa to explain the reasons for the deposits in Awa Ajia Nigeria Ltd’s account, of which he was a signatory.
“The specific ingredients were not proven. It is not as if the prosecution did not make an attempt, but that the attempt was so woeful,” Owonikoko submitted.
Justifying the claim for N500m as damages, he said the defendant’s reputation and occupation have suffered:
“The defendant had been put on permanent self-suspension. He has over 100 lawyers in his firm. We urge the court to slam the hammer and give the right message against malicious prosecution.”
But EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo opposed Tarfa’s no-case submission, noting it amounts to contesting the obvious.
“I am passionately urging my lord to dismiss this application and call on the defendant to explain the allegations that we have proved against him.
“It is beyond argument that failure to declare an asset is an offence under the EFCC Act.”
According to Oyedepo, Tarfa misconstrued the no-case submission.
Justice Akintoye adjourned till February 9, for ruling on the application.
He was accused of alleged willful obstruction of authorised EFCC officials, refusal to declare assets and giving false information to a public officer.
The agency also alleged, among others, that the lawyer offered N5.3million gratification to Justice Nganjiwa in order to compromise the judge.
It claimed that Tarfa transferred the money in several tranches to Justice Nganjiwa between June 27, 2012, and December 23, 2014, charges which Tarfa pleaded not guilty to.