Court refuses Olu Agunloye’s request to invite top lawyers for $6bn fraud trial

Olu Agunloye
Olu Agunloye

An FCT High Court has struck out an application by former minister of power and steel Olu Agunloye to invite top lawyers to hear his case on alleged infractions in the $6 billion Mambilla Hydroelectric plant.

Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie gave the ruling on Monday.

Mr Agunloye was a minister in Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

On March 21, the defendant through his counsel Adeola Adedipe moved a motion seeking the leave of the court to allow some top lawyers to participate in the hearing of his preliminary objection against EFCC.

He told the court that contrary to constitutional provision, the attorney general of the federation (AGF) did not give EFCC the fiat to investigate and institute proceeding in the case against him.

Adedipe cited Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), telling the court that instead of getting such fiat from the AGF, EFCC got it from the solicitor-general of the federation.

Adedipe informed the court that the AGF Lateef Fagbemi was sworn in on August 21, 2023, while the prosecution filed the charge against Agunloye on September 7, 2023.

“The AGF did not give a fiat for the investigation. It was the Solicitor-General of the Federaion that gave EFCC fiat when he does not have such power under Section 174 of the Constitution (as amende); it is the exclusive reserve of the AGF (to do so),” Adedipe said.

“This charge was filed on Sept, 7, 2023. It was filed when the AGF was on seat who did not even ratify, did not give a fiat.

“Granting the application to allow amici curiae (friends of the court), including the AGF; the President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikyau SAN; a former Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN and a former NBA president, Joseph Daudu SAN to participate in the hearing of the said preliminary objection would not prejudice the court or EFCC.”

EFCC replies Olu Agunloye on powers to prosecute him

Responding, the prosecution counsel Abba Mohammed said the Supreme Court had decided in FRN vs Osahor and others that the power of the AGF under Section 174 of the Constitution is not exclusive to him.

According to him, this implied that other authorities could initiate criminal proceedings in court, adding that in the instance case, the AGF did not complain that EFCC usurped his power.

Mohammed added that the Appeal Court had decided in Audu vs FRN that EFCC can prosecute offenders under the ICPC Act.

He urged the court to take judicial notice that the solicitor-general of the federation, who signed the fiat to prosecute the defendant was the acting AGF as of August 8, 2023 as there was no substantive AGF then.

Ruling on the motion, Justice Onwuegbuzie held that the matter is not such that amicus curiae (friends of the court) should be invited.

He then adjourned until April 22 to hear the defendant’s preliminary objection.

Agunloye pleaded not guilty to seven counts bordering on forgery, disobedience of presidential order and corruption.