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Court dismisses firms’ application to change plea in Patience Jonathan’s case

A federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday dismissed an application by four companies to change their plea on alleged laundering of $15.5 million allegedly belonging to former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.

The firms, Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Transocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited, had asked the court to reverse their guilty plea and nullify the previous proceedings because those who represented them were not authorised to do so.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned the companies alongside a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Dr. Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs, who is the companies’ secretary and a banker with Skye Bank Plc, Adedamola Bolodeoku.The companies’ counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), told Justice Babs Kuewumi that his clients were not given a fair trial before their conviction because they had no legal representation of their choice.

Ozekhome, who stated that he was briefed to represent the firms after their directors pleaded guilty despite not being authorised by the board to do so, said they were convicted “in gross violation” of the 1999 Constitution, which he said, occasioned a miscarriage of justice.He prayed that the trial be done de novo (afresh) and that the previous proceedings be declared null, void and unsustainable in law.

The application, he said, was on the ground that the court failed to pass a sentence on the convicted companies, as the judge reserved sentence until end of the other defendants’ trial.Besides, Ozekhome said the companies were denied the right to cross-examine the purported directors who purportedly pleaded guilty.

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Meanwhile, Justice Kuewumi, in his ruling, held that a lower court could only reserve itself in exceptional cases where there is “a serious procedural irregularity” or where the court lacks jurisdiction.“The main issue to be addressed in this application is whether this court can revisit its earlier decision whereby the applicants were convicted. Once a court gives an order or judgment, it has no legal competence to reverse itself or set aside its previous order.

“Considering the circumstances of this case, I have not been shown any valid reason to make me revisit my decision. This court is already functus officio.“I’m in agreement with the prosecution that this application is incompetent. It is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed,” the judge said.He, therefore, adjourned the matter till October 17, 2018 for hearing.

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