NWLR This Week: On the Exclusive Jurisdiction of the Federal High Court Over Matters on Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

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Parties: Ruth Adehwe Aweto v. Federal Republic of Nigeria

Appeal No: SC/584/2015

Court: Supreme Court

Justices: MARY UKAEGO PETER-ODILI, J.S.C. (Presided)
KUMAI BAYANG AKA’AHS, J.S.C.
AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, J.S.C.
PAUL ADAMU GALINE, J.S.C. (Presided and Read the Leading Ruling)
SIDI DADUA BAGE, J.S.C.

Citation: (2018) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1622) P.527

Facts:

The Appellant and one Mr. Adekanye Komolafe were Provost and Bursar respectively of the Federal Cooperative College, Ibadan. They were arraigned before the Oyo State High Court Ibadan and charged with offences bordering on contravention of Section 17(1)(c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

According to the prosecution, the Appellant and the Bursar prepared and submitted nominal rolls and Budget proposals for the staff of the College for the year 2006. In the budget, they presented 41 casual staff as permanent staff. As a result of such presentation to the Federal Government, the sum of N7, 041,861.15 was released every year as salaries and emoluments for the 41 casual staff, whereas the actual amount that was paid to the causal staff was N3, 690,000.00 only.

In her Defence, the Appellant admitted that the 41 casual staff which she represented in the budget were yet to be converted to permanent staff as at the time the budget proposals were submitted to the Federal Government. She stated further that the difference between the actual money paid to the 41 casual staff and the money received from the Federal Government was used to offset outstanding salaries of other staff, which was not the purpose for which the money was requested for in the budget.

At the conclusion of trial, the Appellant and her co-accused were convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment on four of the eight count charge. The Sentences were to run concurrently.

Aggrieved by the judgment, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Judicial Division.

At the Court of Appeal, the Appellant contended that the High Court of Oyo State lacked the jurisdiction to try the Appellant for the offences charged under the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 having regard to the provisions of Sections 251 (1)(p) and (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

She also contended that in view of her Defence, the prosecution did not prove corrupt intent on her part as an ingredient of the offence created under the provisions of Section 17 (1)(c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 to ground a conviction against her.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal held that the trial High Court of Oyo State had the requisite jurisdiction to try the charge. It held further, that the prosecution established the necessary mens rea/corrupt intent against the Appellant to warrant her conviction and sentence. The Court of Appeal therefore dismissed the appeal.

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Still aggrieved, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

In determining the Case, the Supreme Court considered the provisions of Sections

251(1)(a)(p) and 251(3) of the 1999 Constitution which state as follows:

251(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Constitution and in addition to such other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, the Federal High Court, shall have and exercise jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, the Federal High Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court in civil causes and matters –

(a) relating to the revenue of the Government of the Federation

in which the said Government or any organ thereof or a person suing or being sued on behalf of the said Government is a party;

251(1)(p) the administration or the management and control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies.”

2511,3) The Federal High Court shall also have and exercise jurisdiction and powers in respect of criminal causes and matters in respect of which jurisdiction is conferred by subsection (1) of this section.”

Principle:

 On Whether the Federal High Court has exclusive jurisdiction over matters on the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 –

By the provisions of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000 and Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Federal High Court does not have the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the matters on the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act, rather it shares the jurisdiction with the State High Court or the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and this is explained in Section 251 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

On Power of Attorney General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings for offences under the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 –

By the provision of Section 26(2) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, prosecution for an offence under the Act shall be initiated by the Attorney General of the Federation, or any person of Authority to whom he shall delegate his authority, in any superior court of record so designated by the Chief Judge of a State or the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja under Section 61(3) of the Act. Every prosecution for an offence under the Act or any other law prohibiting bribery, corruption, fraud or any other related offence shall be deemed to be initiated by the Attorney General of the Federation.

On Power of Chief Judge of a State High Court or Federal Capital Territory to designate a court or judge to hear all determine all cases of bribery, corruption, fraud etc arising under the ICPC Act, 2000 –

By the provision of Section 61(3) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, the Chief Judge of a State High Court or the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja shall by order under his hand designate a court or Judge or such number of courts or Judges as he shall deem appropriate to hear and determine all cases of bribery, corruption, fraud or other related offences arising under the Act or any other laws prohibiting fraud, bribery or corruption. A court or Judge so designated shall not, while being so designated, hear or determine any other cases, provided that all cases of fraud, bribery or corruption pending in any court before the coming into effect of the Act shall continue to be heard and determined by that court.

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On Jurisdiction of State High Courts and Federal Capital Territory High Court to hear cases on offences created by the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act –

The State High Courts and the Federal Capital Territory High Court which are designated by the Chief Judges under Section 61 (3) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 for hearing of cases bordering on offences created by the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, have the requisite jurisdiction to hear such cases. In the instant case, the High Court of Oyo State had jurisdiction to hear the Appellant’s case.

On Sources of power of the Attorney General of the Federation or a person authorized by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to initiate or authorize initiation of criminal proceedings in any court –

By virtue of Sections 174 (1) and 286 (1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, the Attorney-General of the Federation or any person authorized by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) can lawfully initiate or authorize the initiation of criminal proceedings in any court other than a Court Martial in any State of the Federation in respect of offences created by the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

By Section 6 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, it shall be the duty of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to prosecute offenders. In the same vein, Section 26 (2) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, states that every prosecution for an offence under the Act shall be deemed to be initiated by the Attorney-General of the Federation. Therefore, any criminal case initiated by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, is intact initiated by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

On Extent and scope of criminal jurisdiction of the Federal High Court and whether has exclusive jurisdiction in criminal matters relating to the revenue of the Federal Government –

By the provision of Section 251(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal High Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction and powers over criminal causes and matters in respect of which jurisdiction is conferred by subsection (1) of the Section. The word ‘exclusive’ is clearly absent in Section 251 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. It then means that if the framers of the 1999 Constitution had intended that the Federal High Court should have exclusive jurisdiction in criminal matters relating to the revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria, they would have said so in clear words in this Section of the Constitution.

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On Exclusive jurisdiction of Federal High Court in civil causes and matters relating to the administration or the management and control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies –

By the provision, of Section 251 (1)(p) of the 1999 Constitution, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Constitution and in addition to such other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, the Federal High Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court in civil causes and matters relating to the administration or the management and control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies. In the instant case, though the Federal Cooperative College lbadan is an agency of the Federal Government, the exclusive jurisdiction donated is in respect of civil causes and matters relating to items in subsection (1)(a-s) of section 251 of the Constitution.

On Exclusive jurisdiction of Federal High Court in respect of civil causes and matters relating to the revenue of the government of the federation –

By the provisions of Section 251 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Constitution and in addition to such other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, the Federal High Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly to the exclusion of any other court in civil causes and matters relating to the revenue of the Government of the Federation in which the said Government or any organ thereof or a person suing or being sued on behalf of the said Government is a party.

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