Justice Lateefat Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has insisted that she won’t hands-off on the on-going trial of Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of defunct BankPHB, his wife, Elizabeth and former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu for allegedly defrauding the bank of N25.7 billion notwithstanding the Court of appeal ruling in the trial of Okey Nwosu, a former Managing Director of  defunct Fin Bank.

Nwosu who is facing similar charges of theft with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), had earlier obtained an order from the Court of Appeal, invalidating the power of the State High Court to hear the charges.

From Nwosu experience, Atuche, his wife and Anyanwu had filed an application before the court, asking it to dismiss the charge preferred against them on the ground that the subject matter of the charge revolves around the issue of acquisition of shares as disclosed in all the 27 counts charge.

They also argued that the control of capital issue i.e shares is item 12 on the Exclusive Legislative list of the 1999 constitution and same exclusive to the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court by virtue of Section 251(1) of the 1999 constitution and section 7 (3) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 Cap F12.

However, Justice Okunnu in a ruling minutes after parties had finished their arguments on and against the motion, stated that she cannot grant Atuche?s application aiming to dismiss the charge as  it will amount to pre-empting the decision of the court appeal in an appeal filed by Atuche on June 22, 2011, in which he  had challenged  the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge.

Therefore, the judge dismissed the application filed by Atuche and his wife dated November 29, 2013 and brought pursuant to Sections 6(6), 230-248, 270-274 and 287(2) of the Constitution, in which they challenged  the jurisdiction of the  Lagos High Court to entertained  the charge against them on the strength of the appeal court?s judgment delivered on November 21, 2013.

Justice Okunnu said it will amount to judicial rascality to so do and therefore opted to continue with the trial pending the determination of Atuche’s appeal at the appeal court on the same issue of jurisdiction.

Subsequently, the judge adjourned till March 10, 2014 for continuation of trial.


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