Justice O A Taiwo of Lagos State High Court – Ikeja, has just struck out the 14 count criminal charges against Sen Bassey Albert Akpan, and O J Omokore whom the anti-corruption agency accused of corruptly receiving gratification.
Suit no ID/7778/2018 had sought to convict the duo – Omokore for giving costly car gifts to the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East, Senator (OBA) for receiving proceed of corruption to favour the company Omokore represented with juicy state contracts while in office as Finance Commissioner.
The twist in the jurisdiction where the matter was charged provided the grounds for Barr Samuel Ikpo Esq – defending Senator Albert to hand him the first victory. While one Abdulahi led the Prosecution, Abubakar Esq. defended Omokore.
Samuel Ikpo built OBA’s defence, first, on preliminary objections. He accused the EFCC of forum shopping, thus raising the issue of jurisdiction. He argued that the alleged offences having been allegedly committed in Akwa Ibom State ought to have been charged in the state, not Lagos.
He raised objection by demanding to know from EFCC why OBA was not even charged in Abuja – where he resides as a serving Senator, assuming, but not conceding that the anti-graft agency was uncomfortable with Akwa Ibom State. Ikpo did not deny that his client received the gifts.
EFCC had in reply told court that the costly vehicles were bought in Lagos not Uyo. Ikpo in a detailed reply explained to court that neither the purchase of the vehicles, nor the vehicles and location of purchase constituted offences upon which his client was brought before the court.
He emphasized that if location was crucial to the charges, it ought to be Akwa Ibom where the vehicles were allegedly received, not Lagos where they were acquired. He urged Justice Taiwo to throw the case out as the court lacked jurisdiction to hear it. Counsel defending Olajide Omokore adopted Ikpo’s position.
In the judgment just delivered, the court, fully persuaded, concluded that it lack the jurisdiction to entertain the case, particularly in view of the fact that the alleged offences were not committed in Lagos, as it was not an offence to buy things in Lagos, or anywhere else. The case was accordingly struck out!