The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, fixed June 11 to rule on a motion seeking to stop further hearing on the money laundering charge the Federal Government slammed against the Commandant of Peace Corps of Nigeria, Dickson Akor.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Mr Akor on an amended 13-count charge bordering on his alleged involvement in N1.4billion recruitment scam.
The Incorporated Trustees of the Corps was equally cited as the 2nd defendant in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/45/2017.
The defendants were accused of obtaining money by false pretence contrary to section 1(1)(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other fraud related Offences Act, Cap A6 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
Specifically, FG alleged that the defendants had between January 1, 2013 and March 6, 2017, obtained money from unsuspecting job seekers who it said were made to pay money into Eco bank account No. 4582022099.
It accused the defendants of laundering funds obtained through unlawful activity contrary to section 7(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other fraud related Offences Act, Cap A6 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Aside charging Mr Akor for organising and training members of Peace Corps of Nigeria as a quasi- Military organization contrary to section 6(1)(a) of the Public Order Act, Cap P42, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act, Nigerian government accused the defendants of operating as a private guard without licence contrary to section 1(1) of the Private Guard Companies Act Cap P30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, an offence punishable under section 32 (1) of the Act.
At the resumed proceeding in the case, the defendants, through their lawyer, John Ochogwu, applied for the trial to be adjourned sine-die (indefinitely) pending compliance to an order the court made on January 16, which directed the Nigerian Police Force to unseal the National Headquarters of the Corps in Abuja.
Mr Ochogwu told the court that Police has continued to lay seige at the Peace Corps head office in disobedience to two court orders and a directive from the National Assembly.
He argued that section 287 of the 1999 constitution imbued the court with powers to enforce its orders, insisting that action of the security agents not only amounted to a direct affront on authority of the court, “it is a sad reminder of the dark days of military rule”, Mr Ochogwu added.
“My lord the office of the defendants has been under seal and lock. This is a year and two months now since the arraignment. Some of the facilities needed for their defence is still under lock by the complainant.
“The defendants are thoroughly disadvantaged. There is no how the matter will proceed without the defendants being allowed facilities to prepare their defence.
“Granting this application will serve as deterrent to those who undermine the powers of the court”, the defence lawyer submitted. However, in its five-paragraphed counter-affidavit, FG maintained that section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, prohibited the court from staying proceedings in a criminal trial.
“Their prayer seeks to operate as a request for stay of proceeding. We urge my lord to uphold decisions of the Supreme Court in the case between FRN vs Saraki and FRN vs Metuh,” government lawyer, A. S. Don-Oboh stated.
After he had listened to both parties, trial Justice John Tsoho adjourned to rule on the matter. It will be recalled that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, on August 11, 2017, took over prosecution of the defendants from Police. The AGF equally pruned down charges against the defendants from 90 to 13 counts.
Mr Akor had pleaded not guilty to all the allegations against him, even as the trial court granted him bail to the tune of N30million. The court however ordered him to surrender his international passport to the Deputy Chief Registrar, pending the determination of the case against him.