The anti-graft agency, EFCC, has described a ruling by the Court of Appeal in Lagos as a “dangerous precedent.”
On Monday appeal court ruled that the EFCC lacked the powers to prosecute serving judges until they are dismissed by the National Judicial Council, NJC.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC vowed to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is to appeal against the ruling of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, which today held that the agency lacked powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officials except where such officers have been dismissed by the National Judicial Council.
“The Commission considers the ruling a dangerous precedent that has no basis in law and, is confident that the Supreme Court will upturn the judgment.
“Criminal trial takes precedence over administrative procedures and it is strange that the Court of Appeal wants to put the cart before the horse. This is ridiculous! The appellate court simply wants to confer immunity on public officers from prosecution for corruption, it will not stand,” Mr. Uwujaren said.
See the ruling below:
THE EFCC LACKS POWERS TO INVESTIGATE OR PROSECUTE A SERVING JUDICIAL OFFICER IN NIGERIA FOR MISCONDUCTS OR OFFENCES ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED IN THE DISCHARGE OF THE DUTIES OF HIS OFFICE:
Says the Court of Appeal in HON JUSTICE NGAJIWA v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (FRN), Appeal No: CA/L/969C/2017
The Court of Appeal on Monday, December 11, 2017 delivered a well researched judgment, anchored on the principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government in Nigeria. According to the CA, in the above named case, the EFCC does not have powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where such judicial officers have first been dismissed or retired by the NJC; that serving judicial officers can only be prosecuted for offences like murder, stealing etc if such offences are committed outside the discharge of their official duties; that once the offence is allegedly committed in the discharge of their duties, they must first be tried by the NJC and dismissed or retired before the EFCC can investigate or prosecute them.
Allowing the appeal against a decision of the Lagos High Court, Hon Justice Obaseki Adejumo JCA, who delivered the lead judgment for the Court of Appeal held that the condition precedent to filing of Charge No: LD/4769/2017 had not been fulfilled. He held that the NJC must first strip or remove the Appellant (judicial Officer) of his judicial standing before he could be charged with such alleged offence allegedly committed in the course of discharge of his duties. The CA therefore held that the High Court of Lagos State lacks the jurisdiction to hear and determine the charge against the serving judicial officer. The Court of Appeal accordingly set aside the ruling of Akinbode J. (of the Lagos High Court) and upheld the Preliminary objection upheld of the Appellant in the court below. Charge against the appellant was dismissed.