Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday transferred to the Port Harcourt Division of the court the charges filed against the Independent National Electoral Commission’s 23 officials who were accused of receiving N360m bribe from Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State during the December 10, 2016, re-run in the state.
The judge, ruling on the notice of preliminary objection filed by the electoral officers challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case in Abuja, held that the charges ought to be filed in the Rivers State capital, Port Harcourt, where the alleged offences were allegedly committed.
He held that the prosecution was unable to provide any cogent evidence of insecurity in Port Harcourt to justify the filing of the charges in Abuja.
Justice Tsoho held that impression created by the prosecution that there was “pervasive insecurity” and that the city had become ungovernable, provisions of section, was not backed with any evidence.
He also held that the “frightening pictures” attached to the prosecution’s counter-affidavit had no proof of location and time of the incidents, adding that there was no evidence presented to the court to back the claim by the prosecution that there were daily reports of threat by cult groups in the state.
He ruled that in the absence of such evidence, provisions of section 93 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, which both provided that charges must be filed in the area or place where the alleged offences were committed “shall apply”.
The judge then ordered the transfer of the case to Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court for the arraignment of the defendants.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation had on March 7, 2017, filed seven counts against the 23 defendants for allegedly receiving N360m bribe from Wike in connection with December 10, 2016, rerun elections in River State.
Source: The Punch