Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has said she will recommend disciplinary action against an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission lawyer, Babatunde Sonaike, for the manner he is handling an alleged N800m land theft case.
The 10 defendants in the case are Moji Yakubu, MonanTrading Company Limited, Chief Muka Bajulaiye, Alhaja Ajimot Adisa and Alani Shirawu.
Others are Bajulaiye Hakeem, Akeem Giwa, Rachael Tokede, Adelaja Raji and Nuniru Mushafau.
The EFCC alleged that they conspired to steal a 10-hectare land worth N800m located at Sangotedo, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, which belonged to one Joko Trade Estate Resources Limited.
But since November 2015 when the charge was filed, the EFCC has not been able to arraign the suspects.
On February 4, 2016 when the EFCC brought four of the suspects before Justice Ipaye, the judge had declined the application for their arraignment, saying she needed to first be addressed on the possibility that a parcel of land could be stolen.
She subsequently released the four suspects on bail and adjourned the case till February 11, 2016.
The parties later addressed the court on the question of whether land could be stolen after which the judge adjourned till Thursday for ruling.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, however, the judge said the ruling was not and said the matter would be adjourned till September.
But the defence counsel, Mr. Yemi Adesina, reported to the judge that the EFCC had gone before another judge, Justice Aishat Opesanwo of the Igbosere division of the court, to obtain a forfeiture order on the allegedly stolen land.
Adesina accused the EFCC of forum shopping and urged Justice Ipaye to vacate Justice Opesanwo’s order.
Justice Ipaye then turned to the EFCC lawyer and asked if Adesina’s allegation was true, to which the EFCC lawyer said he had truly obtained a freezing order on the land.
His response drew the anger of Justice Ipaye, who berated him for what she termed professional misconduct and an action taken in bad fate.
She said Sonaiki’s action was the kind that was giving the judiciary a bad name.
“It appears that you are keen on taking the laws into your hands. Why would you go before another court for this kind of order when the matter is before me? This kind of action is what is giving the judiciary a bad name,” the judge said.
In a ruling, Justice Ipaye vowed that she would “later” institute a disciplinary action against the EFCC lawyer before the appropriate authority.
She adjourned further proceedings in the matter till September 14, 2016.
Earlier on February 17, 2016, the judge had, in a ruling, heavily descended on the EFCC for freezing the 2nd defendant’s banks accounts without a court order.
The judge said though the EFCC has been vested with enormous powers, it must not be reckless in the exercise of such powers, the Punch reports.