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N16.2m Fraud: Defence Stalls Trial With Motion

Justice Justice Peter Affen of the Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Maitama, on Monday, February 27, 2017 reserved ruling on whether or not the court has the jurisdiction to entertain a case against one Nze Chidi Duru, who is being charged on a 4-count charge of criminal breach of trust to the tune of N16.2million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Duru, a barrister and former vice chairman of First Guarantee Pension Limited, was said to have been entrusted with the said sum being part payment of thirty percent equity shares of First Guarantee Pension Limited sold to Novare Holdings Proprietary Limited.

According to the petitioner, the accused diverted the money to pay for land allocations from Lagos State Government in favour of Grand Towers Plc and MVJJDA Africa Limited, companies he allegedly have interests.
The offence breaches Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap, 352 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
The case earlier slated for trial today was however stalled as Duru’s counsel, Abdul Mohammed, said that he had a pending application praying the court to strike out the case for want of jurisdiction.

“We have a preliminary objection dated February 2, 2017 and filed same date. The application is supported by a 34-paragraph affidavit with thirteen exhibits attached. The court lacks jurisdiction because there are pending civil cases at various levels and at different courts”, Mohammed said.
Mohammed also argued that there was a valid court order restraining EFCC from initiating any criminal proceeding against the defendant adding that until that order is vacated or set aside on appeal, the EFCC is bound by it.

“I urged your Lordship to uphold the submission and grant our application”, he prayed.
Responding, counsel to EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir, urged the court to dismiss defendant’s preliminary objection having taking plea by the accused to proceed with the hearing of the case.

He said: “We have conducted investigation and that is why we charged the accused. We rely on statement by the complainants, the defendant, witness and some individuals which revealed that the diversion, which was in two tranches, was used in buying the properties”.

After the submission of both counsel, Justice Affen reserved ruling saying, “the court will inform parties of a date suitable”.

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