27th March, 2012
Former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Power at the last National Assembly, Ndudi Elumelu on Tuesday secured a reprieve as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja acquitted him of the charge preferred against him and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over the N5.2 billion Rural Electrification scam.
The court, presided over by Justice Garba Umar, while delivering his ruling on an application filed on behalf of Elumelu who was listed as the 8th accused person in the matter, held that the embattled legislator had not been shown to have been connected in any way to the commission of the alleged crimes going by the proof of evidence filed by the anti-graft agency.
The court further held that subjecting Elumelu to the rigours of trial will amount to an abuse of court process even as his presence in the matter was already an abuse of court process.
Justice Umar went on to strike out the counts in the charge affecting and relating to Ndudi Elumelu and subsequently discharged him.
However, the court held that others standing trial with Elumelu have cases to answer on the strength of the proof of evidence before the court and adjourned till May for their trial.
Elumelu had been standing trial over the alleged fraud in the allocation of contracts by the Rural Electrification Agency, REA, alongside Senator Nicholas Ugbane, his counterpart at then Senate Committee on Power and Jibo Mohammed.
His lawyer, Mr. Patrick Ikwueto, a senior advocate of Nigeria, had moved an application before the court challenging the competence of the charge as it relates to Elumelu and had urged the court to dismiss the amended 15-count charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as the charges constitute an abuse of court process which the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain.
Ikwueto had argued that the criminal jurisdiction of the court can only extend to offences under a written law and that where it becomes evident that no offence was committed ab initio, that the court cannot legitimately exercise its jurisdiction over the charge.
Elumelu, Ugbane and Mohammed were charged alongside officials of the Rural Electrification Agency, REA, in 2008.
—Nnamdi Felix / Abuja