The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has constitutional power to take over any criminal case at any stage of investigation.
Tony Orilade, Spokesman of the commission, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Sunday.
Orilade was reacting to the take over of the case of alleged N25 billion fraud filed against former Gombe State Governor, Senator Danjuma Goje, by the commission.
The case was taken over by the Office a few hours after Goje dropped his ambition to become the President of the Senate of the ninth Senate due for inauguration on June 11.
Gone (APC-Gombe Central) had after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, announced his decision to step down for and support Senator Ahmad Lawan for the Senate presidency.
According to Orilade, by virtue of the existing law, the office of the AGF has the power to takeover any criminal case at any stage, adding: “And that is exactly what has happened.”
Section 174 (1a) of the 1999 Constitution states that the Attorney-General of the Federation shall have the power: “To institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court-martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly.”
While subsection (1b) says: “To takeover and continue any such proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person.”
NAN reports that for almost eight years, the EFCC had been prosecuting the former governor until Friday.
The case, which was before Justice Babatunde Quadiri of Jos Federal High Court II, had even gone to the Jos Court of Appeal over the remaining two count charges out of 21 filed against him by EFCC.
The Appellate Court is yet to fix a date for the hearing of the appeal.
When the case came up for an emergency hearing before Justice Quadiri, the EFCC Counsel, Wahab Shittu, told Court that the agency was withdrawing from the case and handing it over the office of the Attorney-General for continuation.
Shittu said: “My lord, this case was earlier adjourned for June 20 for continuation of hearing, but then we are here today on the latest development on the matter.
“We as EFCC counsels are withdrawing from the matter and handing it over to the office of the Attorney-General for continuation with the prosecution.
“As you can see, in Court is a State Counsel from the AG’F’s office to formally take over this case from us.”
Responding, Paul Erokoro (SAN) did not object to the EFCC withdrawal and handing over of the case to the Attorney-General.
“My lord, we are not objecting to the anti-graft withdrawal and handing over the prosecution to the AG’s office,” Erokoro said.
Pius Asika, Counsel from the office of the attorney general, announced his appearance for the case.
Asika then applied for an adjournment to enable him prepare for the case proper “having just come into the matter”.