Alleged $6bn Fraud: You’ve no power to try me, ex-Minister, Agunloye tells EFCC

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Apo on Monday, fixed February 26 to hear a motion the former Minister of Power and Steel, Mr. Olu Agunloye, who was accused of complicity in a $6 billion contract fraud, filed to challenge the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to prosecute him.

The EFCC alleged that Agunloye, who served as a Minister between 1999 and 2003, under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, illegally awarded a contract for the construction of a 3,960 MW Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on a Build, Operate, and Transfer Basis.

The agency told the court that the contract, which was awarded to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited, was done without any budgetary provision, approval, or cash backing.

Agunloye was equally alleged to have corruptly received kickback to the tune of N3.6 million from the company to which he awarded the contract.

However, the defendant, who had also served as a Minister of State for Defence, pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge against him.

At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Monday, the 76-year-old defendant, via a motion marked: M/3736/2024, queried the powers of the EFCC to try him over the alleged offences.

He contended that the agency was bereft of both the investigative and prosecutorial powers under sections 6, 7, and 46 of the EFCC Act, 2004, to initiate the case against him.

He maintained that the offences in the charge bordered on his activities as a public officer, his alleged disobedience to presidential directives, as well as the alleged forgery of a letter dated May 22, 2003.

“These allegations do not constitute financial crimes, which can be lawfully investigated and prosecuted by the EFCC, pursuant to its powers under Sections 6, 7, and 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act and in consonance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Nwobike v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2022) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1826) 293.

“Not having the mandatory/statutory powers to investigate the allegations against the defendant ab initio, the purported investigation of the defendant and current prosecution of the charge by the EFCC is ultra vires its powers and thereby a nullity.

“This is a threshold issue, in which the court must first satisfy itself that there is requisite statutory powers for the EFCC to prosecute the charge and competent jurisdiction in the court to entertain same,” the former Minister argued through his lawyer, Mr. Adeola Adedipe, SAN.

Besides, he filed another motion for an order of the court to restrain the EFCC from inviting, intimidating, or harassing his sureties.

As well as for an order to vary the bail conditions the court gave to him on January 11, which mandated his sureties to provide evidence of their ownership of a property worth N300 million.

The defendant told the court that the EFCC has “repeatedly harassed, threatened, and invited his sureties for investigation,” an action he said was “actuated by bad faith, for the sureties to withdraw their suretyship and thereby create an uneven playing field in the prosecution of the case.”

Trial Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie adjourned the matter till February 26 to hear the applications.

One of the counts in the charge against the defendant read: “That you, Olu Agunloye, whilst being the Minister of Power and Steel on or about the 22nd of May, 2003 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, awarded a contract titled ‘Construction of 3,960mw Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on a Build, Operate, and Transfer Basis’ to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash backing, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22(4) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.”




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