The Supreme Court on Friday set free a Lebanese, Talal Roda, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for conspiracy and illegal storage of firearms.
Roda was the only one convicted among the three Lebanese accused of being members of Hezbollah terrorist group and of illegal storage of firearms in Kano and Abuja in 2013.
The others were owner of the popular Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park in Abuja, Mustapha Fawaz, and his in-law, Abdallah Thahini.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on Friday, set aside the judgements of the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal in Abuja which affirmed the conviction passed on Roda by the trial court.
The apex court held that the trial court wrongly assumed jurisdiction over the case as he ought to have been tried before a Federal High Court in Kano where he was said to have been arrested with the cache of weapon.
Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed, who read the lead judgement, also quashed the sentence on the grounds that he was convicted on charges that were non-existent in law.
The Supreme Court ruled, “I entirely agree with the appellant’s counsel that, although the Federal High Court’s jurisdiction covers the whole federation, its criminal jurisdiction, by virtue of Section 45(A) of the Federal High Court Act remains ordinarily exerciseable by the court in the division within which the offence was committed.”
He held that as provided under Section 22 of the Federal High Court Act, a court outside where the offence was committed could only assume jurisdiction where the case was transferred from a court in the division where the offence was committed.
Justice Mohammed held, “In the case at hand, all available materials – the charge and the evidence preferred – all of which the trial court rightly considered in determining the objection against its competence situate by the appellant and his co-accused at Number 3 Gaiya Road, Kano, where the firearms unlawfully stored were recovered.
“There is nothing in evidence beyond what the charge asserts of any understanding between the appellant and the others to store the firearms at the premises.
“Aside from the appellant’s physical presence at the premises, there is not the slightest piece of evidence, not even in exhibit three (appellant’s extra-judicial statement) to show that he agreed with the co-accused to store the firearms or that he is further linked with the storage of the firearms in Abuja.”