Court to decide EFCC’s power to prosecute Olu Agunloye

Olu Agunloye
Olu Agunloye

An FCT High Court in Apo has fixed March 4 to rule on the preliminary objection filed by a former minister of power and steel Olu Agunloye.

Mr Agunloye, 76, is challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute him regarding certain infractions in the $6 billion Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station in Taraba.

Agunloye, who was minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, is charged with seven counts of forgery, disobedience of presidential order and corruption.

He was alleged to have, among others, on May 22, 2003 awarded a contract titled “Construction of 3,960 megawatt Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on build, operate and transfer basis to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash backing.

The prosecution also alleged that it traced some suspicious payments made by Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited to the former minister’s accounts.

The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Justice Onwuegbuzie, on February 12, declined to hear the preliminary objection, filed by counsel to the former minister, Adeola Adedipe, on the ground that it was not due for hearing.

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However, hearing did not hold because the judge was attending a conference.

In the preliminary objection challenging EFCC’s powers to try the former minister, Adedipe had sought an order of the court prohibiting the anti-graft agency from prosecuting or further prosecuting the instant charge against the defendant.

He argued that the commission lacked both investigative and prosecutorial powers under Sections 6, 7 and 46 of EFCC Act, 2004.

He argued that the offence allegedly committed by Agunloye were based on his (Agunloye’s) activities as a public officer.

He added that the former minister was alleged to have awarded the contract for the power plant without budgetary provision, approval and cash backing.

Adedipe further argued that the defendant was accused of an alleged disobedience to the directives of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as a forgery of a letter dated May 22, 2003.

The senior advocate submitted that the allegations against the former minister did not constitute financial crimes and as such could not be investigated and prosecuted by EFCC.