254MIL CARS BRIBE: SENATOR BASSEY KNOWS FATE FEBRUARY 20

An Ikeja Special Offences Court has fixed February 20 for ruling on whether the court has jurisdiction to try a suit involving alleged N254 million bribe filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a serving Senator Albert Bassey (Akwa-Ibom North East).

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Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo fixed the date after counsels in the matter have made their submissions to the court.

Senator Bassey was to be arraigned by the EFCC before the court for allegedly receiving bribe of 12 cars valued at N254million from Olajide Omokore while serving as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance.

He was to be arraigned alongside the oil marketer, Omokore, on a 14- count charge bordering on official corruption.

Their counsels, Solomon Umoh (SAN) and Olatunde Adejuyigbe (SAN) representing Senator Bassey and Omokore respectively, had earlier filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.

At resumed proceedings on Wednesday, the two counsels moved their applications, contending that the court had no power to hear the substantive case.

Bassey’s counsel, Umoh argued that there was nothing before the court to prove that the alleged crime against his client was committed outside Akwa-Ibom or in Lagos State.

He said: “There is nothing in the proof of evidence that suggested 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 was delivered to the first defendant by the second defendant. So we want to ask where were the cars delivered to him 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 the cars in Akwa-Ibom State, how come they are coming to try him in Lagos State.

“The prosecution has not shown how the first defendant came to Lagos to receive vehicles. They have not shown it anywhere in the proof of evidence,” he contended.

Umoh argued in addition that the name of his client, Bassey, was not mentioned in the petition written to the EFCC.

He therefore urged the court to grant his application.

Similarly, Omokore’s counsel, Adejuyigbe, also argued that the contending issue was not insufficiency of evidence but whether they were in the right court.

He argued that in determining the issue of jurisdiction, the court was not bound by the place stated in the charge.

He said, “The count against the second defendant relates to receiving gratification or giving bribe and the section under which those counts were charged did not state name of purchase, place of purchase, mode of payment so we cannot be asking the court to rewrite the law.

However, the prosecution counsel, Sadisu Abubakar, argued that the EFCC has the right to try the case before the court.

Abubakar argued that the applicants tied the issue of jurisdiction to the issue of insufficiency of evidence which he noted was an abuse of the court processes.

Justice Taiwo has however adjourned the matter till February 20 for ruling on the issue of jurisdiction raised by the defence counsels.

In the charge before the court, the anti-graft agency had alleged that Bassey received the bribes 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 allegedly corruptly received a BMW X5 BP worth N50m from Omokore and in December 2012, he received another Infinity QX 56 BP worth N45m from him.

On November 2013, the serving senator was alleged to have received a Toyota Land Cruiser V8 BP valued at N40m and in March 2014, he was also alleged to have received a Range Rover, also valued at N40m from the businessman as well as in September 2014, another Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N27m.

Others vehicles received according to the EFCC are Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N16m and six units of Toyota Hilux vehicles valued at N36m.

The anti-graft agency claimed that the car gifts were given to Bassey by Omokore in exchange for contracts from the Akwa-Ibom State Government.

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