N19.2bn: Court Dismisses 50-count Charge Against Sylva

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA—A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed the 50-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against the former governor of Bayelsa State, and All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate in the state, Mr. Timipre Sylva.

Trial judge, Justice Ademola Adeniyi, held that the charge constituted an abuse of the judicial process.

He noted that the EFCC had previously dragged Sylva before two different judges of the court on charges that bordered on the same transaction, proof of evidence  and set of witnesses.

Justice Adeniyi said that the EFCC lodged the 50-count charge against Sylva after its two previous charges were in 2012 and 2013, dismissed by the high court.

He said: “To commence this fresh trial in 2015 is a complete abuse of court processes. No court of law will allow the reckless show of power by a prosecuting agency. To allow such will occasion a miscarriage of  justice.

“In this circumstance, this court lacks the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the charge against the accused persons. This court hereby dismisses the charge filed against the defendant in the suit. This matter cannot be re-litigated.”

Sylva, in the charge, was alleged to have connived with three others, Francis Okokuro; Gbenga Balogun and Samuel Ogbuku, and siphoned over N19.2 billion from the Bayelsa State treasury between 2009 and 2012.

Three companies that were allegedly used to perpetrate the fraud, Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited, were equally joined as defendants in the charge.

It will be recalled that Justice Mohammed had on June 10, dismissed an earlier 42-count charge against Sylva on the ground that the EFCC was prosecuting him before two different courts on the same facts.

The court’s ruling came nine days after the Federal Government, through the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. M.S Diri, withdrew the initial six-count charge which was then before Justice Evoh Chukwu of the same high court.

Sylva was in that withdrawn charge accused of looting over N6.5 billion from the Bayelsa State treasury between October 2009 and February 2010.