The Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal has refused to grant bail to a suspected fraudster, Scales Olatunji.
The court also in its decision delivered Friday affirmed the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, to try the defendant for fraud involving N525million.
A statement by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicated on Monday that the ruling of the appellate court affirmed the key decisions of the lower Federal High Court in Uyo where Mr Olatunji is being prosecuted.
The trial court hearing
The EFCC had on July 2, 2019, arraigned Mr Olatunji on 45 counts of fraud involving N525million, impersonation, conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence N525m.
Mr Olatunji had pleaded “not guilty” to the charges and was remanded in the custody of the Uyo Correctional Centre.
The defendant’s lawyer on October 16, 2020 argued his bail application and challenged jurisdiction of the court to hear the entire case.
The court dismissed the applications as it held that the “applicant failed to place sufficient facts before this court to warrant the grant of his applications.”
Dissatisfied with the decisions, the lead defence counsel, Gboyega Oyewole, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, appealed to the Court of Appeal in Calabar, Cross River State, to challenge them.
Opposing the appeals, EFCC’s lawyer, Nwandu Ukoha, urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss the appeals insisting that the appellant was flight risk.
“If bail is granted, he will never be present at his trial due to his antecedents as all his cohorts are still at large,” he argued.
Appeal Court ruling
Ruling on Friday, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Muhammed Shuaibu held that the Federal High Court in Uyo was a proper venue for the trial of the appellant.
Mr Shuaibu, who was on the panel with James Abiriyi and Mojeed Owoade, noted that the trial court possessed the territorial jurisdiction of the lower to hear the case.
“Jurisdiction, territorial or otherwise, is statutory and is conferred on the court by the law, creating it,” he added.
Dismissing the appeal on bail, Mr Shuaibu held that “where it is believed that the appellant is likely to jump bail; (the) bail will properly be refused by the court.
“And since there was an attempt by the appellant to evade his trial, the learned trial judge acted judiciously and judicially in refusing to exercise his discretion in favour of the appellant.”
The court dismissed the appeals and directed the trial court to give the case an accelerated hearing in line with the Federal High Court (Criminal) Practice Direction, 2013.
Similarly, the appellate court also upheld the ruling of a Federal High Court, which granted an order of final forfeiture of a Mack truck with registration No. 324 X F, to the Federal Government, upon application by the EFCC.
The appellants, N. C Angus (W/A) Limited, Mohammed Suleiman and Suleiman Mohammed, who were convicted for illegal oil bunkering, had challenged the forfeiture of the truck.
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