Twenty-three staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday opposed the bid by the federal government to put them on trial before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The workers were alleged to have accepted bribery of N360 million from politicians during the last National Assembly re-run elections in Rivers State.
The INEC staff were brought to court under a tight security provided by various security agencies and they were billed to be arraigned on a seven-count criminal charge bordering on conspiracy contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and Punishable under Section 15 of the Act.
However, shortly after the case was called, their various counsel led by Ahmed Raji (SAN), informed Justice John Tsoho, that the defendants have filed a motion, challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the case in Abuja. The defendants, through their lawyers, claimed that any attempt to subject them to trial in Abuja would be unfair and would prejudice them, since the alleged offence was said to have been committed in Rivers State.
The court therefore adjourned till April 7, for hearing on applications filed by the defendants.
The federal government had filed a seven-count charge against the 23 INEC staff for allegedly accepting bribe from politicians.
Those charged include Shittu Mohammed Lamino, Henry Nwokorie, Peter Ewetade, Mary Jummai Tunkoyo Pennap, Gwatana Jibril, Ivase Stephen, Abdullahi Ogabo, Gayus Hassan, Hussain T. Yahaya.
Others are James Ogwuche, Karimu F. Aminu, Adedokun Najeem Ayotunde, Balogun Funmilayo, Adams O. Kadiri, Akinwande R. Adesoji, Lukeman Olabimpe, Tiamiyu R. Arowolo, Akinwoye Amodu, Nwoha Yusuf, Patrick Anuke, Iro Abau, Nwosu. G. Oluchi and Arukwe Chinelo