A former Minister of Power and Steel, Mr. Olu Agunloye, has filed a motion to challenge the authority of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to prosecute him for a $6 billion contract fraud.
The EFCC accused him of illegally awarding a contract for a hydroelectric power station to a company without any budget, approval, or cash backing. He also allegedly received N3.6 million as kickback from the company.
The former Minister, who pleaded not guilty to the seven-count, argued that the EFCC had no power to investigate or prosecute him for the alleged offences. He said the allegations were not financial crimes, but related to his public service, his alleged disobedience to presidential directives, and his 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,” he said through his lawyer, Mr. Adeola Adedipe, SAN.
He also sought an order to stop the EFCC from harassing his sureties and to vary his bail conditions, which required his sureties to own a property worth N300 million. He claimed that the EFCC was acting in bad faith to make his sureties withdraw their support.
The court, presided by Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie, adjourned the hearing of the motions to February 26.
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.”