A federal high court in Abuja has refused to stay proceedings in the trial of Andrew Yakubu, former group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), accused of laundering over $9.8million.
At the commencement of the case on Wednesday, Mohammed Abubakar, prosecution counsel, informed the court that both parties have a pending appeal before the supreme court.
He said the appeal by the defendant is marked: SC/CR/223/2020, while that of the prosecution is marked: SC/CR/241/2020.
“By the provision of Section 306 of the ACJA 2015 and the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, application for stay of prosecution shall not be entertained where there is an interlocutory appeal,” Abubakar said.
“However, in the instant case, whatever decision the supreme court might arrive at will affect this case in one way or the other.
“However, I am not making any application for stay of proceedings in view of the provision of Section 306 of the ACJA.”
Responding, Ahmed Raji, Yakubu’s counsel, said although he would have loved to stay proceedings, the provision of section 306 of ACJA is binding.
“I would have loved to get a stay of proceedings because my appeal has great chances of succeeding, which would have made it unnecessary for the defendant to enter defence in respect of the two remaining counts,” Raji said.
“Therefore, as a member of the inner bar, I owe it a duty to act, at all times, in accordance with the state of the law.
“We are therefore compelled to comply with the subsisting order of the court of appeal, mandating the defendant to state his side of the story in respect of counts three and four.”
In his ruling, Ahmed Mohammed, the judge, noted that the pending appeals filed by both the defendant and the prosecution cannot amount to a stay of proceedings.
He said the provision of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), allows him to continue hearing the case.
He cited the decision of the supreme court in the case of Olisa Metuh vs the Federal Republic of Nigeria which has effectively outlawed the grant of stay of proceedings in criminal cases on grounds of the filing of an interlocutory appeal.
Mohammed then adjourned the case to July 8 for the defendant to enter his defence in respect of counts three and four, which are now left in the original six counts charge brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The commission had on March 16, 2017, arraigned Yakubu on a six-count charge of money laundering.
A total of $9.8 million and £74, 000 were recovered from his Kaduna residence.
Yakubu, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, had earlier claimed that the monies were gifts he received from friends.
He was alleged to have, as “group managing director of NNPC, between 2012 and 2014, within the jurisdiction of this court, with intent to avoid lawful transaction, transported to Kaduna $9.7million and €74,000.’’
He was also accused of failing to disclose the sum of $9.7 million and €74,000 to the EFCC in his asset declaration form, a crime which contravened Section 27 (3) of the EFCC Act.
The EFCC closed its case on October 17, 2018, after calling seven witnesses.