Government Agencies Can Collaborate to Prosecute a Case; FRN V. Saraki

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Government Agencies Can Collaborate to Prosecute a Case; FRN V. Saraki
EFCC-CCB

INTRODUCTION

There have been instances where an offence will fall under the investigative and prosecutive jurisdiction of two or more government agencies. In such an instance, what is the ideal thing to do? Can the various agencies work together to prosecute a case? This was one of the issues for determination in this appeal.

AKOMOLAFE-WILSON, J.C.A., while delivering the leading judgment in this appeal, held as follows: “This Court in Appeal No. CA/A/172C/206 in an appeal on the ruling earlier delivered by the Tribunal on this issue had held at p. 48 that:

There is nothing in any law preventing the Code of Conduct Bureau, an agent of the Federal Government, from collaborating or acting in concert with any other organs of the Federal Government, which are also engaged in the investigations and prosecution of criminal matters in order to achieve its mandate under the Constitution and the law.”

Corroborating this position, MUSTAPHA, J.C.A. in his contribution said “…the tribunal was wrong to have held to the effect that investigations by the team consisting of Code of Conduct Bureau, EFCC and DSS is unknown to law. See pages 2131 to 2132 of the record of appeal.

I am compelled to arrive at this conclusion because this Court had in its decision in CA/A/172C/2016 categorically stated that nothing stops these agencies from collaborating in investigations towards a successful prosecution of a case, not least because all of them are undeniably agencies of the Federal Government with the necessary mandate to investigate and prosecute.”

BRIEF FACTS

The appellant herein, upon conclusion of investigation conducted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau, had preferred a thirteen count charges against the respondent before the trial tribunal on offences ranging from false declaration of assets, purchasing properties in excess of money fairly attributable to his salary, maintaining a domiciliary account and other similar allegations against the Respondent herein at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

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The appellant, made an application to commence trial dated 11th day of September, 2015 and in response, the respondent herein, as defendant, pleaded not guilty and sought for an order of the trial tribunal to quash or strike out the charges.

In a unanimous ruling delivered on the 24th March, 2016, the trial tribunal refused the application to quash or strike out the charges against the respondent and ordered the prosecution to produce witnesses to commence the trial. The prosecution called 4 witnesses and tendered 48 exhibits in proof of the said charges and closed its case on the 4th day of May 2017.  The respondent, through his counsel on the same day, raised a No Case Submission, on which the trial tribunal ordered parties to file their respective written addresses. At the end of the day, in a unanimous ruling delivered on the 14th day of June 2017, the trial tribunal upheld the No Case Submission of the defendant/respondent and discharged and acquitted him of all the charges.

Dissatisfied with the said ruling, the appellant filed the present Appeal.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

The issues for the just determination of this appeal was as formulated by the appellant and adopted by the Court as follows:

  1. Whether the Code of Conduct Tribunal was right in upholding a no case submission raised by the respondent at the close of prosecution’s case. (Distilled from grounds 1, 2, 5, 8 and 11)
  2. Whether the learned members of the Tribunal are not wrong in holding that the respondent was not invited by the EFCC in the course of its investigation. (Distilled from ground 3)
  3. Whether the Tribunal was not wrong in holding that the investigation conducted by a team of investigators from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Code of Conduct Bureau was illegal and unknown to law. (Distilled from grounds 4 and 6)
  4. Whether the Tribunal was right in holding that failure to produce the original Asset Declaration Forms and the Written Statement of the respondent, is fatal to the case of the prosecution when the prosecution tendered the certified True copies of the documents. (Distilled from ground 7)
  5. Whether the Code of Conduct Tribunal was not wrong in upholding the no case submission in the instant case regard being had to the onus of proof on the parties as prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). (Grounds 9 and 10)

HELD

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The appeal was hereby dismissed in part and allowed only in respect of counts 4, 5 and 6 of the Further Amended Charge.

The Ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal delivered on 14th June, 2017 was upheld in respect of counts 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the Further Amended Charge. And an order was made remitting the case to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for the respondent to enter his defence in respect of counts 4, 5 and 6 of the Further Amended Charge.

RATIO DECIDENDI

On whether Federal Government Agencies that engage in the investigations and prosecution can collaborate with each other in investigations towards a successful prosecution of a case:

“This Court in Appeal No. CA/A/172C/206 in an appeal on the ruling earlier delivered by the Tribunal on this issue had held at p. 48 that:

“There is nothing in any law preventing the Code of Conduct Bureau, an agent of the Federal Government, from collaborating or acting in concert with any other organs of the Federal Government, which are also engaged in the investigations and prosecution of criminal matters in order to achieve its mandate under the Constitution and the law.”

As rightly noted by the learned counsel to the appellant, the Court of Appeal decision is supported by the decision in Bamaiyi v. A.G. Federation (2000) 6 NWLR (Pt. 661) 421 at 460-461 paras G-E, where it was held that it was not unlawful for the Attorney-General of the Federation to set up special investigation panel comprising of police and other enforcement agencies. I am in full agreement with the learned senior counsel for the appellant that refusal of the Tribunal to bind itself on this point and thereby unwittingly constituting itself as an appeal over the decision of the Court of Appeal amounted to judicial impertinence and disrespect to this Court. SeeA.G. Anambra v. Eyitene (1985) 6 NSCLR 753.” Per AKOMOLAFE-WILSON, J.C.A. (Pp. 10-11, Paras. C-C)

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“…the tribunal was wrong to have held to the effect that investigations by the team consisting of Code of Conduct Bureau, EFCC and DSS is unknown to law. See pages 2131 to 2132 of the record of appeal.

I am compelled to arrive at this conclusion because this Court had in its decision in CA/A/172C/2016 categorically stated that nothing stops these agencies from collaborating in investigations towards a successful prosecution of a case, not least because all of them are undeniably agencies of the Federal Government with the necessary mandate to investigate and prosecute; see BAMAIYI v. AG FED (2000) 6 NWLR part 661 page 421; thus requiring each agency to perform its functions without collaborating with the other is only likely to end up in duplication and likely chaos.” Per MUSTAPHA, J.C.A. (Pp. 89-90, Paras. F-D)

FRN V. SARAKI (2017) LPELR-43392(CA)

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