From Jefferson Ibiwale, Benin
A Federal High Court in Asaba, Thursday, set aside the judgment delivered by Justice Marcel Awokulehin of six years ago, which struck out all 170-count charge of money laundering preferred against former Governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori.
In a ruling delivered today by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa and supported by two other panel members – Justices P.M. Ekpe and H.A. Barka – the court held that Ibori, who is currently serving a 13-year jail term in a London prison, indeed, has a case to answer.
Dissatisfied with the judgment given by Awokulehin, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment on the grounds that lower court erred in law.
The appeal was predicated on four grounds.
One, that the trial judge looked at the proof of evidence and evaluated same as if the prosecution had called all its witnesses and trial concluded.
Secondly, that the procedure is by way of summary trial and not trial by indictment or information.
Third, that the proof of evidence clearly shows a prima facie case has been made against the accused/respondent and that the judge erred when he held that no case was proved against the accused.
Finally, the EFCC also argued that the judgment was unwarranted, unreasonable and against the weight of proof of evidence filed by the prosecution in support of the charges.
Holding that the appeal was meritorious, Justice Salauwa resolved all the four issues for determination in favour of the commission and directed that the matter be re-assigned to another judge of the Federal High Court for continuation of trial.
The implication of this judgement is that Ibori might be made to face trial in Nigeria upon completion of his jail term in London.
Ibori’s wife, girlfriend and lawyer are also convicted for complicity in the money laundering charge preferred against the former governor and are equally serving various jail terms.