The embattled Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, Wale Babalakin on Friday failed in a second attempt to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from prosecuting him on money laundering charges.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos and presided by Justice Ibrahim Buba dismissed Mr Babalakin’s suit seeking, among other reliefs, an order barring the police and the State Security Service from arresting him in connection with charges of money laundering.
Justice Buba said it was wrong for the applicant to approach the court to enforce his fundamental human right when there was a pending criminal charge against him at the state high court. He said the personal liberty of an individual was not absolute. He said it will not augur well for the peace and progress of the society if any person with a criminal charge in a court approaches another to enforce his fundamental human right; nothing that ”nobody is above the law, no matter the person’s position or status”.
He said Mr Babalakin as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria should not be afraid to face the court and, therefore, dismissed his application as lacking in merit.
The Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs had told the court that the commission is vested with the power to investigate, arrest and prosecute persons for financial crimes. He also told the court that Mr Babalakin did not abide by the terms of the administrative bail granted him by the anti-graft agency.
On the issue of Mr Babalakin’s ill-health which his counsel, Wale Akoni made reference to, Mr Rotimi said that there was nothing before the court on the current state of the suspect’s health.
“It is not a case of denial of fundamental human rights but a case of non-compliance to enjoy that right. The suit is intended to gag the EFCC so that they will not take him to court”, Mr Rotimi said.
Before today’s ruling Justice Buba had on Monday December 17, 2012 refused to grant an ex-parte order restraining the EFCC from arresting or detaining Mr Babalakin without hearing from the respondents. Rather, the judge ordered the suspect to serve the respondents to enable them respond to the motion on notice.
Another court had on December 15, 2012 dismissed a similar application by Mr Babalakin for an order of prohibition against the EFCC and the Attorney General of Federation from arraigning him before the Lagos High Court on the grounds that the application was defective as it failed to comply with Order 35 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, which require the applicant to depose to an affidavit after serving the court papers on the parties in the suit.
The judge held that failure to depose to such affidavit and file same before the court had robbed the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
The court vacated the order it earlier granted the applicant permitting him to institute the prohibition suit against the EFCC and subsequently awarded N5, 000 cost against the applicant.
Mr Babalakin, alongside Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited are scheduled to appear before an Ikeja High Court on January 17, 2013 to take his plea on a 27-count charge of offences bordering on money laundering preferred against him by the EFCC. The suspects allegedly transferred various sums of money on behalf of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, through third parties to some foreign accounts under the guise of purchasing a Challenger Jet Aircraft.
They were to be arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court Ikeja on November 29, 2012. The arraignment was stalled as Mr Babalakin failed to show up, claiming sudden illness that necessitated his hospitalization at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
While his lawyers were pleading with Justice Onigbanjo to adjourn the arraignment to enable Mr Babalakin to recover from his illness, he was attempting to stop his trial before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court.
The lead defence counsel to Mr Babalakin, Ebun Sofunde has withdrawn from the case, citing personal reasons.