The Federal Government cannot sustain a charge over an offence not contained in a written law, the Chairman, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Olanrewaju Suraju, has said.
Also, a person cannot be accused of an offence already declared invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction.
These declarations were contained in the notice of preliminary objections filed by Suraju seeking to quash charges of alleged cyberstalking against him by Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
Suraju said in statement on Sunday in Abuja that the legal process was filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The former Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, who is one of the accused standing trial in the OPL245 scam, popularly known as Malabu scandal, had petitioned the Nigeria police, to accuse of peddling falsehood against his person.
In the petition, Adoke alleged that Suraju and his foreign allies fabricated and circulated damaging false evidence meant to unfairly incriminate him over the fraud.
Following the petition, the police said it submitted a case file to the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice recommending the prosecution of Suraju ans his allies for alleged forgery.
The former Attorney General of the Federation claimed an email submitted to an Italy court purporting to have been sent by him and quoted by Suraju never emanated from him, just as the tape of an interview he was said to have granted an Italian reporter.
Adoke said the false information in the petitions against him formed the basis of his ongoing prosecution for corruption and money laundering.
Suraju said on Sunday the subject of Adoke’s petition was forgery of an email in which Nigeria as a sovereign State was shortchanged to the tune of $1.1billion.
The anti-corruption campaigner has insisted neither he, his group nor their international partners involved in the advocacy for the recovery of the money and the prosecution of those behind the fraud have any case to answer over the matter.
Suraju maintained the items they were being accused of fabricating featured as exhibits in the Malabu Oil scandal trials both in London and Milan, Italy.
Regardless, Malami, on behalf of the federal government, recently filed a four-count charge in a suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/370/2021, accusing Suraju of using his social media handles as well as emails and audio interviews to circulate false information against Adoke.
However, in a preliminary objection to the suit against him, Suraju requested the court to dismiss the charge for lack of jurisdiction.
He said the application was filed on his behalf by his counsels, M.A. Banire & Associates led by Muiz Banire, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Suraju said other reliefs sought included an “order quashing the charge for prior engagement in trial by the media before service of the charge on the defendant on the ground that such act is prejudicial to the right of the Defendant/Applicant to fair hearing”
Grounds for objections to the suit by the Federal Government include that no court or person has jurisdiction to embark on trial for, or charged with an offence not contained in a written law, or that does not otherwise constitute an offence at the time of its commission.
Also, Suraju said the charges filed against him did not disclose any offence contained in a written law; by virtue of the provisions of Section 36(8) & (12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the jurisdiction of the court to arraign a defendant over a charge was activated by the disclosure of an offence known to a written law.
He said Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) (hereafter simply referred to as the Constitution) protects the applicant from being prosecuted or convicted for an offence not set out in a written law.”
The objection also stated that, “This Charge brought pursuant to Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015 violates the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and disregards the decision of the Ecowas Court in mandatory imperatives as set out in Suit No: ECW/CCJ/APP/53/2018;
“Engagement in media trial before service of the Charge on the Defendant/Applicant is an act prejudicial to fair trial contrary to Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended); This action is an abuse of court process.”
Besides, Suraju also submitted that to arraign him under the present counts contained in the Charge Sheet in the matter was to charge him with an offence not provided for by law.
It is not clear if the process has been served on the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and the Federal Ministry of Justice,
It queried, “How does one expect a person to plead to an offence not contained in a written law? How does someone even plead to an offence already declared invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction?
“If a defendant can only be charged with an offence provided by law, which he needs to understand in order to appropriately be arraigned, it is not possible to achieve that under a law that has been declared invalid,” he said.
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