An Ikeja Special Offences Court has fixed Feb. 20, to decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear a N254 million corruption suit against Sen. Albert Bassey, representing Akwa-Ibom North- East.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Bassey, 46, was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The commission accused the senator of receiving bribes of 12 cars worth N254 million while in office as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance (2010-2014).
He was charged alongside an oil marketer, Olajide Omokore, who allegedly gave the bribe.
Bassey was charged on seven counts of receiving bribe as a public officer while Omokore was charged with seven counts of offering gratification to a public officer.
During proceedings on Wednesday, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo fixed the date after hearing submissions from Mr Solomon Umoh (SAN), Bassey’s counsel and Mr Olatunde Adejuyigbe (SAN), Omokore’s counsel.
Both counsel had filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.
Addressing the court, Umoh said that there was nothing before the court to prove that the crime Bassey was alleged to have committed was outside Akwa-Ibom or in Lagos.
He said: “There is nothing in the proof of evidence that suggests that any aspect of the alleged crime against the first defendant was committed outside Akwa-Ibom State and in Lagos State.
“Happily, the prosecution has narrowed everything down that it was cars that were delivered to the first defendant by the second defendant.
“We want to ask: Where were the cars delivered, so we can know what Lagos has to do with Akwa-Ibom State, but we have provided the answers in our argument. The cars were delivered in Akwa-Ibom State.
“If he (Bassey) received them in Akwa-Ibom State, why are they coming to try him in Lagos State.
“The prosecution has not shown how the first defendant came to Lagos to receive vehicles. It has not show it in the proof of evidence.”
Urging the court to grant his application, Umoh, further argued that Bassey’s name was not mentioned in the petition that was written to the EFCC.
Similarly, Adejuyigbe, Omokore’s counsel, argued that the contending issue was not insufficiency of evidence, but whether the case was in the right court.
He said that in determining the issue of jurisdiction, the court was not bound by the place stated in the charge sheet.
Adejuyigbe said: “The count against the second defendant relates to receiving gratification or giving bribe.
“The section under which those counts were charged did not state the name of purchase, place of purchase and mode of payment; we cannot be asking the court to rewrite the law.”
The prosecution counsel, Mr Sadisu Abubakar, however, argued that the EFCC had the right to prosecute the case before the court.
He submitted that the applicants tied the issue of jurisdiction to the issue of insufficiency of evidence which, he argued, was abuse of the court processes.
NAN reports that according to the anti-graft commission, Bassey received the bribe while serving as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance and Chairman of the Akwa-Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee.
The EFCC claimed that, on May 10, 2010, Bassey corruptly received a BMW X5 BP worth N50 million from Omokore and in December 2012, he received an Infinity QX 56 BP worth N45 million from him.
The senator was alleged to have received a Toyota Landcruiser V8 BP valued at N40 million from the second accused in November, 2013.
He was also alleged to have received a Range Rover, also valued at N40 million, from the businessman in March 2014.
The EFCC also claimed that Bassey received a Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N27 million from the second accused in September 2014.
Others vehicles he allegedly received are Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N16 million and six units of Toyota Hilux vehicles valued at N36 million.
The EFCC claimed that the cars were given to Bassey by Omokore in exchange for contracts from the Akwa-Ibom Government, in contravention of Sections 63 (1)(a), 64 (1)(a) and 98(1), (a), (i) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.