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N19.2bn Fraud: EFCC Faults Dismissal Of Sylva’s Case

Economic And Financial Crimes Commission Expresses Reservations Over The Dismissal Of 42-Count Charges Of Stealing Brought Against Former Governor Of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva By A Federal High Court.

Xavier Ndanyongmong

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) has faulted the decision of the Federal High Court Abuja, which yesterday dismissed the 42-count charge of stealing brought against a former governor of Bayelsa state, Timipre Sylva on the grounds of abuse of court process. According to the anti-graft agency, Justice A. R Mohammed in dismissing the charge, erred in law as the accused persons had not taken any plea; no proof of evidence was placed before the court and trial had not commenced.

It noted that the dismissal of the charge by Justice Mohammed, following the application of the Commission to consolidate the charges against the former governor and his accomplices, does not amount to a discharge or an acquittal, and it does not preclude the power of the agency to bring fresh charges against the defendants.

Sylva along with Francis Okokwo, Gbenga Balogun, and Samuel Ogbuku, are alleged to have used three companies – Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited to move about N19.2 billion from Bayelsa State coffers between 2009 and 2012, under false pretence of using the withdrawn money to augment salaries of the state government workers. Justice Mohammed yesterday while ruling on a notice of preliminary objection filed by counsel to Sylva, L. O. Fagbemi, SAN, dismissed the charges, describing it as an abuse of court processes.

Making reference to the charges filed against Sylva before Justice E. Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which were withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, on June 1, 2015, the judge said, “there is no allegation of abuse court process against the charges which were before Justice Chukwu, so if there is any charge to be withdrawn, it is the one before this court.” Justice Mohammed held that the move by the prosecution, especially on a letter sent to the court by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, which had requested to consolidate the charges against Sylva and which is coming after the court had already entertained arguments from both sides, and adjourned for ruling on the various applications before it, amounted to “an attempt to interfere with court processes and the administration of justice.”

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