The Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal has on February 12, 2021 dismissed the application by a suspected serial fraudster, Scales Olatunji, challenging both the jurisdiction and ruling of the Federal High Court, Uyo denying him bail.
Scales, who is being prosecuted by the Uyo Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was arraigned on July 2, 2019 on a 45-count charge bordering on impersonation, fraud, conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N525 million.
He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges and was remanded in the custody of the Uyo Correctional Centre.
The matter was adjourned to October 16, 2019 for hearing of bail application wherein the issue of jurisdiction was also raised by the defendant but the applications were refused as the “applicant failed to place sufficient facts before this court to warrant the grant of his applications”.
However, dissatisfied with the interlocutory ruling on the defendant’s bail application, lead defence counsel, Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), approached the Appellate Court to side aside the ruling of the trial court.
But prosecuting counsel, Nwandu Ukoha, urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss the appeal as the appellant was a flight risk.
“If bail is granted, he will never be present at his trial due to his antecedents as all his cohorts are still at large,” he stated.
In a ruling delivered on Friday, Justice Muhammed L. Shuaibu, leading Justices James Abiriyi and Mojeed Owoade, dismissed the appeal as unmeritorious.
The appellate court, while arriving at the inevitable conclusion that the trial court is a proper avenue for the trial of the appellant, observed that territorial jurisdiction of the lower court implies a geographical area within which the authority of the court may be exercised and outside which the court has no power to act.
“Jurisdiction, territorial or otherwise, is statutory and is conferred on the court by the law, creating it,” he held.
Justice Shuaibu added: “Where it is believed that the appellant is likely to jump bail, bail will properly be refused by the court.
“And since there was attempt by the appellant to evade his trial, the learned trial judge acted judiciously and judicially in refusing to exercise his discretion in favour of the appellant.”
The appeal was consequently dismissed, while the lower court was ordered to ensure accelerated hearing of the case in line with the Federal High Court (Criminal) Practice Direction, 2013.
Similarly, the Court of Appeal, Calabar Division on February 12, 2021 upheld the ruling of a Federal High Court, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, which granted an Order of final forfeiture of a Mack Truck with registration No. 324 X F to the Federal Government, upon application by the EFCC.
The appellants, N. C. Angus (W/A) Limited, Mohammed Suleiman and Suleiman Mohammed, who were convicted on one-count charge bordering on illegal oil bunkering, had challenged the forfeiture of the Truck at the Appellate Court.