$15m Ibori Bribe: EFCC Chairman Blasts Edwin Clark over Call for His Removal
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has expressed reservation over comment made by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, calling for the removal of its Executive Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde over the Commission’s handling of the Ibori bribe saga. Clark had on September 25, 2012 addressed a press conference in Abuja where he called for the removal of the EFCC boss on the grounds that he lied in the sworn affidavit he deposed to as Director of Operations regarding the Ibori bribe.
At the resumed hearing of the case seeking the forfeiture of the alleged $15million Ibori bribe to the federal government before the Federal High Court, Abuja presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole,the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, described the comment by Clark as published in the National Mirror newspaper as prejudicial, judgmental and subjudice.
“My Lord, his statement was a judgment passed on this case which only this court has the right to pass. This will erode the confidence of our people on our judicial system and I urge your lordship to summon him to come and explain why he should not be committed for contempt; why he has taken over from the court.” Rotimi said.
He said he prevailed on his client not to reply Chief Clark as doing so would amount to disrespect for the court.
But Delta State Attorney General, Charles Ajuya, SAN, who described Clark as a well-respected senior citizen, legal practitioner and recipient of two national awards, urged the court to discountenance Jacobs’ submission since His Lordship has said he didn’t see the publication.
“ Your Lordship has said you have not seen this publication, I feel you should not be in a hurry to make this order, let us carry on with the business of the court as the said statements did not in any way impinge on the integrity of your lordship nor that of the court”.
Jacobs however countered, arguing that the fact of Clark being a prominent and well respected person, makes his summon compelling as his comment should not be taken lightly.
Rotimi stated that section 36 of the 1999 Nigeria constitution, offers everyone a right of fair hearing and that Clark should be summoned to come and defend himself.
In his ruling, Justice Kolawole, said he could not form an opinion on the issue having not read the said publication. He said the application by Jacobs was rare as he has never had the possibility of inviting someone who is not a party to a case pending before him.
Kolawole however noted that it was an abuse of court process to make pre-judicial comments and that the freedom of expression is not an absolute right.
Two applications are pending before the court, one brought by counsel to Delta state seeking for extension of time to respond to an application and another by Femi Aina on behalf of Olalekun Bayode, seeking to be joined as a party to the case in ‘public interest’. Bayode through his counsel said he wants the money held in trust because all the recovered loot had not been accounted for by the federal government.
The case has been adjourned to November 19, 2012 for ruling on the pending applications and continuation of hearing.
Justice Kolawole had on July 24, 2012 granted an interim order forfeiting to the Federal Government $15m said to have been received by the EFCC from an undisclosed agent of former Delta State Governor James Ibori in 2007 as a bribe to compromise its investigation.
The money has been kept in the strong room of the Central Bank of Nigeria as an unclaimed property since August 2007.
The order which followed an ex-parte motion brought by Federal Government triggered a rash of claimants after the publication of the order pursuant to the hearing of the motion on notice for the final forfeiture order.
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