The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said that the Attorney General of the Federation was vested with power to take over any criminal proceeding pending before a court of competent jurisdiction.
In a chat with New Telegraph, Acting Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade, deferred to the action of the OAGF, saying regardless of whatever stage the prosecution of a criminal charge had reached, the Constitution allowed for such development.
“The Office of the AGF has the constitutional powers to take over a criminal case at any stage in the course of prosecution. So, it’s not as if EFCC just withdrew from the case,” Orilade said.
Goje has been standing trial over allegations bothering on N25 billion fraud, which the Commission claimed happened during the latter’s tenure as governor (2003 – 2011).
The case before a Federal High Court sitting in Jos, the Plateau State capital, had continued until last Friday when, during an emergency hearing presided over by Justice Babatunde Quadri, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, had announced its decision to take over the case from the EFCC.
New Telegraph recalls that the turn of events came barely 48 hours after Goje had visited Aso Rock, where he met President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed doors.
Among those who attended the Aso Rock meeting was the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, as well as Senator Ahmed Lawan, who has been adopted for the Senate Presidency.
It was after the meeting that Goje, who was a contender for the Senate Presidency in the 9th Assembly to be inaugurated tomorrow, announced his decision to withdraw from the race.
Apart from withdrawing his interest, the former governor also declared support for Lawan.
Section 174 (1a) of the 1999 Constitution states that the Attorney-General of the Federation shall have the power: “To institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court-martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly.”
Recall that the EFCC’s counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, had addressed the emergency court sitting, where he had announced the handover of the case to the OAGF.
He had said: “My Lord, this case was earlier adjourned for June 20 for continuation of hearing, but then we are here today on the latest development on the matter.
“We as EFCC counsels are withdrawing from the matter and handing it over to the Office of the Attorney-General for continuation with the prosecution.
“As you can see, in court is a state counsel from the AGF’s office to formally take over this case from us.”
Responding to Shittu’s application, counsel to Goje, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), had told the court that his client had no objection to the request.
He had said: “My Lord, we are not objecting to the anti-graft withdrawal and handing over the prosecution to the AGF’s office.”
Consequently, a state counsel from the OAGF, Mr. Pius Asika, announced his appearance, even as he had sought an adjournment, to enable him acquaint himself with the case.