Justice A.A. Akintoye of a Lagos State High Court in Igbosere has dismissed an application by Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN) seeking to quash the bribery charges pressed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The EFCC arraigned Tarfa on March 10 on the allegation that he offered N5.3m gratification to a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, in order to allegedly compromise the judge.
The anti-graft agency alleged that Tarfa transferred the money in several tranches to the judge between June 27, 2012 and December 23, 2014.
It said the offence was contrary to Section 64 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No.11, 2011.
But Tarfa, through his defence team, comprising about 34 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, filed a motion on notice, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.
His lawyers had also urged the court to quash the 27 counts filed by the EFCC, claiming that the EFCC had no statutory power to try Tarfa on those charges.
They had argued that the proof of evidence supplied by the EFCC failed to support the charges, describing the charges as incompetent and an abuse of court processes.
They prayed for an order of the court restraining the EFCC from further investigating or prosecution Tarfa in relation to the subject matter.
But in a ruling on Friday, Justice Akintoye said she found enough substance in the proof of evidence placed before the court by the EFCC to warrant calling for the trial of the case.
“There are alleged crimes and the applicant has allegedly committed those crimes by the proof of evidence filed before the court. I hold therefore that the information filed before this court disclosed a prima facie case which must be addressed,” the judge held.
In refusing Tarfa’s claim that the charges amounted to a violation of his rights, the judge referred to provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act which imposed on the anti-graft agency “the statutory duty, obligation and mandate to investigate and prosecute all cases of economic crimes.”
The judge upheld the argument of the EFCC that a court of law could not restrain a statutory body from performing its statutory duties.
She held, “There commission is therefore duty-bound to perform its statutory duty without interference from external body, including but not limited to the court.
“This court will, therefore, not restrain the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from performing any of its statutory duties in respect of anyone including the applicant in this case. I hold that this court has the jurisdiction to entertain the information/charges dated 10th of March 2016.”
Justuce Akintoye said Tarfa’s application failed and refused all the prayers sought.
She held, “I therefore make the following orders:
“One, that the prayer of the applicant asking for an order declining jurisdiction to entertain the information/charges dated 4th of March 2016 is hereby refused.
“Two, that the prayer of the applicant, asking for an order quashing the information/charges dated the 4th of March 2016 is hereby refused.
“Three, that the prayer of the applicant for an order restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, its agents or any person whatsoever or howsoever acting under its authority from investigating or prosecuting any alleged crime against the applicant is hereby refused.
“The applicant’s motion on notice dated 10th March 2016 is hereby dismissed.”
The judge adjourned till Friday, May 20, 2016 for the EFCC to open its case against Tarfa.
In the 27 counts filed against him, the EFCC, among other things, also accused Tarfa of supplying false information to it.
The EFCC alleged that Tarfa gave his age as 43 when he was indeed 54, an act the EFCC claimed to be an offence under section 38(2) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.