Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja is currently reading judgement in the N25.7 billion fraud suit against former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc Francis Atuche, and his wife Elizabeth.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in 2011 arraigned Atuche, his wife and the then financial officer of the moribund bank PHB Plc (now Keystone Bank), Mr. Ugo Anyanwu, over the alleged fraud.
After about three years into the trial, Atuche and co-defendants approached Court of Appeal to challenge their trial by the lower court for lack of jurisdiction.
In a judgement delivered in September 2016, the Appellate Court stopped the lower court from going ahead with the trial.
The appellate court also failed to quash the charges against Atuche, his wife and others but ordered Justice Okunnu to hands off the trial.
The appellate court further directed the Chief Judge of Lagos State to re-assign the case to another judge.
Following the decision of the court of appeal, the EFCC approached the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the lower court and order trial in the matter.
In an unanimous decision, the apex court overturned the decision of the appellate court.
The panel agreed that the lower court’s decisions on the matter was “perverse” and, therefore ought to be set aside.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who prepared and read the lead judgment of the apex court, said the order which the Court of Appeal made on September 23, 2016, for the remittance of case to the Lagos State Chief Judge for the purpose of re-assigning the case to another judge, was not aimed at serving the interest of justice.