Obstruction of justice: Court fixes Oct. 4 for trial of BATN staff, Okonji
Obstruction of justice: Court fixes Oct. 4 for trial of BATN staff, Okonji

Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa, of the Federal High Court, in Lagos yesterday, adjourned hearing in a criminal charge filed against British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited (BATN) and one of its officials, Austin Okonji, till October 4, 2022.

Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) had dragged both BATN and Okonji, before the court for alleged obstructing and impeding the Police and PCCPC’s officials from executing a search warrant issued by an Abuja division of the Court, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1662/2020, issued on December 29, 2020 and renewed on January 5, 2021.

They were alleged to have committed the offences at their Lagos office, located at 2, Olumegbon Close Ikoyi,. Lagos.

Both BATN and Okonji were arraigned on a three-count charge of Conspiracy and perversion cause of justice.

The offences are contrary to 28(5), 110 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 and punishable under the same Act. And section 32(4) of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, and punishable under Section 34 (1) and (2)(b) of the same Act.

At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, the prosecutor, Mr. Abimbola Ojenike, informed the court that parties could not reach amicable settlement of the matter.

He consequently asked for a short date for the arraignment of the firm and it’s official.

Responding, counsel to the tobacco firm and it’s official, Kanmi Adeola told the court the Commission (PCCPC) has communicated some terms to their clients and that parties are still exploring settlement.

He prayed the court for further date to enable parties explore the terms of settlement and come to an amicable resolution of the matter.

The prosecutor while admitting that parties are still exploring terms of settlement, however urged the court to adjourn the matter for report of settlement and arraignment of the defendants, should in case the settlement arrangement did not work out.

Justice Lewis-Allagoa, after listened to the submissions of counsel, adjourned that matter till October 4, for further report on settlement.

The charges against the tobacco firm and it’s official reads: “That you British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited and Austin Okonji ‘M’ on Olumegbon Close Ikoyi Lagos State within about the 25th day of January 2021, at No. 2, Olumegbon Close, Ikoyi, Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did obstruct and impede access to the Authorised Officers of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in the execution of a search warrant issued by an Order of the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division made in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1662/2020 on 29th December 2020 and renewed on 5th January 2021, which Warrant was issued pursuant to Sections 2 and 29 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act. 2018 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 28(5) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 and punishable under the same Act.

“That you British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited and Austin Okonji ‘M’ on or about the 25th day of January 2021, at No. 2, Olumegbon Close Ikoyi, Lagos State within the jurisdiction of this honourable Court did impede and obstruct Investigation by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission when execution of a search, warrant issued by an Order of the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division made in Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/1662/2020 on 23 December 2020 and renewed on 5 January 2021, which Warrant was issued pursuant to Sections 27, 28, and 29 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection on Act, 2018 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 110 of the Federal Competition Consumer Protection and punishable under Section 110 of the Act.

“That you British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited and Austin Okonji, on or about the 25th day of January 5 2021, at No.2 Olumeghon Close Ikoyi, Lagos State, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court having a business and being an employee in the tobacco industry did hinder the police and Authorised Officers of the Federal Competition end Consumer Protection Commission under Section 20 (1)(a) and (f) of the National Tabasco Regulation, 20 9 in the course of carrying out their duties and thereby committed an offence contrary to Sections 32(4) of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, and punishable under Section 34 (1) and (2)(b) of the same Act”.

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