FastNews reports that on Thursday, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, dismissed an application filed by Dr. Olufemi Thomas, a former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, seeking to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from charging him with $2,198,900 in fraud.
The EFCC re-arraigned Thomas and one Kabiru Sidi, a Bureau De Change operator, before Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on an amended seven-count allegation of money laundering totaling $2,198,900.00.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him by the EFCC.
The defendants allegedly conspired with the wife of the first defendant, Funmi, to make a cash payment of $2,198,900.00 to one Ibitoye Bamidele at their residence at No. 20, Lagos University Teaching Hospital Road, Idi-Araba, Lagos.
The second defendant, Sidi, allegedly lied to an EFCC investigator, Afeez Mustapha that he was the owner of the money that the first defendant and his wife transacted with.
During the trial, the first defendant, Thomas, had filed a preliminary objection of no-case submission, saying that the lower court does not have jurisdiction in view of the earlier judgment in a fundamental case before the Court of Appeal.
Thomas, through his counsel, had also argued that the offenses, which he is being charged with, were not known to the law and the prosecution had not made a case against him.
However, the prosecution counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, in his response, submitted that the defendant had not been tried before “as the offenses for which he is facing trial are created by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.”
Iheanacho had urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission and allow the defendants to open their case.
Justice Faji, in a short ruling, dismissed all the grounds of preliminary objections by the defendant.
The Judge had held that “The concept of res judicata operates in both criminal and civil matter. But with respect to a criminal matter, the applicable principle is that of double jeopardy, which does not allow a person to be tried twice.
“In this case, the defendant has not been shown to have been tried before, as the facts before the court are not the same as the one at the Court of Appeal. Therefore, the first defendant’s plea of res judicata fails.”
Consequently, Thomas approached the appellate court seeking to set aside the March 13, 2020 ruling of the lower court.
Delivering judgment in the appeal filed by the former NHIS boss against the ruling of Justice Faji that he has a case to answer, Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar, who led the panel, held that the decision of the lower court was well-grounded.
According to the EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, “the appeal court unanimously found that a prima facie case was established against him, warranting him to submit his defense in the revised seven-count charge presented against him by the prosecution.”
“As a result, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision and ordered the defendant to open his case, adding that with regard to the offenses in the charge, the judge held that the charges re-instated the element of the offenses as created under section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act and are thus valid.”