An Abeokuta High Court on Tuesday dismissed an application filed by the former governor of Ogun, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, seeking its leave to reduce and quash some of the charges levelled against him by the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency had on April 2, 2012 instituted a 38-count charge against the former governor bordering on fraudulent conversion of land and diversion of public funds.
Daniel, through his counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, had last October filed an application to strike out counts 1-13 of the 38 charges which relate to fraudulent conversion of various plots of land belonging to the state.
Defending the application at the last sitting on Dec 14, Daniel argued that a Commission of Inquiry set up by the state government in September 2012 had already indicted Daniel over the same issues.
He also argued that the publication of a white paper by the Ogun Government through which it accepted the recommendations of the commission would affect a fair trial of Daniel's case.
The counsel further insisted that subjecting Daniel to another round of trial on the same charges would amount to double jeopardy.
Having considered the arguments of counsel, Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje, the trial judge, adjourned proceedings for ruling on the application to Tuesday.
At the resumed hearing, Mabekoje held that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry could not be elevated or equated to the status of a court of law.
"An indictment by a Commission of Inquiry does not amount to conviction.
"The accused person was not tried for criminal offences. Only a court of law can try an accused for criminal charges," he held.
Mabekoje also held that an indictment by a Commission of Inquiry was a mere accusation which had to be proven in a court of law.
He stated that Daniel was liable to prosecution to determine his culpability or otherwise in respect of the charges.
Mabekoje, who struck out the application, however, gave the assurance that the decision of the Commission of Inquiry would not jeopardise Daniel's right to fair hearing.
The case was consequently adjourned to Feb. 22 and March 1 for continuation of trial.
It would be recalled that the court had ordered an accelerated hearing into the suit.