The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has said it will appeal against the ruling of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, which today held that the agency lacked powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officials except where such officers have been dismissed by the National Judicial Council.
In a statement signed by the EFCC Spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, the Commission said it considers the ruling a dangerous precedent that has no basis in law and is confident that the Supreme Court will upturn the judgment.
“Criminal trial takes precedence over administrative procedures and it is strange that the Court of Appeal wants to put the cart before the horse.
“This is ridiculous! The appellate court simply wants to confer immunity on public officers from prosecution for corruption, it will not stand,” the statement read.
The development follows the Court of Appeal Judgement on Monday which struck out the charges filed against a Justice of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa who was alleged to have collected bribes to pervert the course of justice.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Obaseki Adejumo on Monday, the court held that the National Judicial Council (NJC) must first perform its constitutional role of disciplining the judge and recommending him for prosecution before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) can file charges against him.
Justice Nganjiwa is being prosecuted by the EFCC for alleged money laundering to the tune of $260,000 and N8.65million.
On June 23, the EFCC had arraigned Justice Nganjiwa for alleged unlawful enrichment to the tune of $260,000 and N8.65million. The commission claimed that the judge received the money through his bank account between 2013 and 2015.
The commission also said the sums did not correspond with the Judge’s salary and he could not explain the source of the funds.
Justice Nganjiwa, who is attached to the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, was therefore arraigned on a 14 count charge before Justice Adedayo Akintoye of the Lagos High Court Sitting in the Igbosere area of Lagos Island.
On November 22, Justice Akintoye had however withdrawn from the case after allegations of bias were made against her by Justice Nganjiwa.
She sent the case file back to the Chief Judge of Lagos for re-assignment to another judge.
This was the status of the case until today’s decision striking out the charges following an appeal by Justice Nganjiwa counsel, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN).