By Clement A. Oloyede
The Special Adviser to the President on Prosecution, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, has said the recent decision by the Supreme Court on objections raised against the jurisdiction of a trial court will aid the anti-graft war.
He was reacting to the apex court’s decision dismissing an application by Destra Investment Limited, a company linked to former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in a case of N400 million fraud.
Obono-Obla said the decision is epochal and will surely help in the quest to bring to justice those who have looted the treasury and other criminal suspects.
His words: “The kernel of the decision is that an objection to the jurisdiction of the trial court by a defendant in a criminal matter must be taken after the plea of the accused person or defendant but the ruling shall be delivered together with the substantive issues at the end of the trial.
“The Supreme Court espoused the provision of Section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 which provides as follows: ‘After the plea has been taken, the defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge or information at any time before judgment provided that any such objection shall only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling therein made at the time of the delivery of the judgment.”
Obono-Obla, who is also the secretary of the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), said the previous practice was that upon a preliminary objection raised by an accused person or defendant to the jurisdiction or validity of a charge or information by accused person, the court was bound to take arguments from both parties and deliver a ruling before the substantive matter continues or stops.
“Most often than not the accused person would appeal such a ruling to the Court of Appeal; and was at liberty to pursue it to the Supreme Court in the event the Court of Appeal dismisses his appeal,” he said, adding that this “practice led to profound abuse and became a clog in the wheel of justice.”
He said the apex court judgment “will give fillip and traction to the efforts of the present administration to bring to justice suspected politically exposed people whose trials have been frustrated through delay tactics and legal maneuvering and subterfuge.”
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