By FAITH OMORUYI
A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday suspended the prosecution of Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Wale Babalakin, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) over alleged N47.3billion money laundering charges. Earlier yesterday, Babalakin and four others were supposed to be arraigned in a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, but the proceedings was stalled by Babalakin’s absence due to alleged illness.
The suspension was sequel to an ex-parte application filed by Babalakin before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court to challenge the charges preferred against him by EFCC. Ruling on the application, Justice Idris granted him leave to apply for ‘cetiorari’ and prohibition against his arraignment. According to the judge, the leave granted would operate as a stay of proceedings of the matter before the Lagos High Court. “I have gone through the application before this honourable court, and I would confine myself to the affidavit and statement.
“At this stage, the court should be satisfied that the applicant has a locus standi, and that a prima facie case exist before the court. “The fact that the applicant has a locus standi, and that a prima facie case exist is clear, but I will not dabble into the merit of the substantive suit. “A serious issue on the constitutionality of acts by public officers has been raised and going by the various documents and statements tendered before this court, I do not think this application is frivolous. “Relief one of the applicant is hereby granted as prayed, and leave is hereby granted for the applicant to make an application for cetiorari and prohibition before this honourable court.
“However, reliefs two and three, of the applicant is unnecessary, and is hereby refused,” Idris ruled. Hearing of the motion on notice had been fixed for December 12, same date as the adjournment date for Lagos High Court matter. In his motion ex-parte, Babalakin was seeking an order of court for leave to apply for cetiorari and prohibition against his arraignment by the EFCC and the Attorney-General of the Federation. He was seeking to prohibit them from taking further steps in his arraignment before the Lagos High Court pending the hearing of his motion before the Federal High Court. The applicant had also sought for an order that the above leave, if granted by court should operate as a stay of further proceedings of the matter before the High Court.
His counsel argued that the applicant was only asking the court to determine the legality of the charge preferred against him. He argued that the charge was not in accordance with the provisions of the law because the AGF and the EFCC lacked the power to prefer a charge against the applicant without the fiat of the Attorney-General of Lagos State. He maintained that the decision of the respondents to prefer the charge was not done in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the EFCC Act and the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State. H
e contended that the authority to bring a charge at the High Court of a state was that of the Attorney General of that state, whose fiat must be clearly exhibited on the face of the charge. He had insisted that the respondents had nothing to lose if the applicant’s prayers were granted, as it would only subsist for 14 days.