Court Dismisses Application To Stay Proceedings On Criminal Matter

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By Okechukwu Onuegbu A Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Awka, the Anambra State capital, before His Worship, Mike Anyadiegwu, has dismissed an application brought before it to stay proceeding on a criminal matter before it for lacking in merit. The court averred that no court in Nigeria, including the Supreme Court, has the power to stay proceedings on a criminal matter; especially when the intention is to stall the trial. One Chief Ben Ifeatu, who was standing trial over a criminal impersonation at the Chief Magistrate Court II, Awka, in a case with charge number MAW/14c/ 2019, had, through his counsel, Barr C. N Eziamaka of the G.U Muoneke Chambers, Awka, brought an order of the State High Court under Justice Chukwudi Okaa, in a suit number A/4CA/2020, and dated January 18, 2020; wherein the High Court ordered the Magistrate Court to stay proceedings on the matter pending the hearing and determination of appeal lodged by the applicant at the High Court against an order of the Magistrate Court in its ruling dated 29th June, 2020; wherein the court rejected ‘no case submission’ application of the defendant, and ordered him to face his trial. But when the High Court order was brought before the Chief Magistrate Court yesterday, the presiding magistrate, Mike Anyadiegwu, opposed the application on the ground that it was lacking in merit. He said, “The new position of the law today is that an application for stay of proceedings in respect of criminal matters before a court shall not be entertained. See Section 306 of the Administrative Criminal Justice Law, 2015. The above position was made by the apex court in a landmark decision in the case of Olisa Metu vs Federal Republic of Nigeria in a suit SC/1457/2016. “The Supreme Court upheld the provision of Section 306 of the ACJL, 2015, as well as Section 40 of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (Establishment) Act. The apex court held that no court in this country has the power, including the Supreme Court itself, to stay proceedings in a criminal matter.” He further averred that the appellate court can review the conviction, if at the end of the trial, the defendant is convicted; adding that a grant of stay would encourage defendants whose no case submission were over ruled, to delay trial. “The beauty of refusing stay of proceeding over interlocutory appeal is that if it is allowed, it will automatically put an end to the prosecution of criminal activities in the Magistrate Court, because, any application refused by Magistrate Court will move to Appeal Court up to the Supreme Court, and, by the time the appeal is disposed of by the apex court, the Magistrate Court might have lost jurisdiction to continue with the case, and a Trial De Nove will be ordered, which technically, may put an end to the prosecution, because, the witnesses may no longer be available. Therefore, this application is hereby, dismissed."

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