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Emefiele: EFCC set to appeal N100m fine

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said on Monday it would appeal the N100 million fine imposed on it by a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court for detaining Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) former Governor Godwin Emefiele.


The anti-graft agency said the judge failed to take into cognizance, the fact that it had a valid court order for Emefiele’s detention.


Justice Olukayode Adeniyi while ruling on a fundamental rights enforcement suit by a former CBN boss, held that no law allows any government agency to detain a Nigerian beyond the period permitted by Section 35 (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution.


Justice Adeniyi went on to slam the N100 million fine against the anti-corruption agency for keeping Emefiele behind bars for almost five months as against a maximum of 48 hours allowed by law.


But the EFCC, in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, said it was dissatisfied with the ruling.


Oyewale said: ”The EFCC has expressed dissatisfaction with a judgment of the FCT High Court awarding N100 million damages against it in favour of a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele.


“Justice O.A Adeniyi, on Monday, January 8, 2024, fined the Commission after he ruled that the commission’s detention of Emefiele in the course of his investigation was a violation of his right to liberty.


“The decision failed to take into cognizance, the fact that the former CBN boss was held with a valid order of court.


“Consequently, the commission will approach the Court of Appeal to set it aside.”


Justice Adeniyi had held that the respondents — the EFCC and its chairman as well as the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF)-


violated Emefiele’s right to personal liberty as guaranteed by Section 35(1) of the Constitution.


He recalled that the respondents detained Emefiele from June 13, 2023, to November 8, 2023 (when he was released on bail) without arraigning him in court.


The judge also noted that by the evidence before him, Emefiele was detained within the jurisdiction of his court from June 13 to November 8, 2023.


While frowning at the way the respondents handled the case, the judge said, that as a creation of the law, the Federal Government and its agencies must learn to conduct their businesses by the law.


He noted that the respondents failed to draw the court’s attention to any law that allowed them to continue to detain a citizen indefinitely without a court order and without arraigning him.


The judge added that the order that the EFCC claimed to have acted upon was suspicious because a copy tendered to his court was not certified by any official of the Chief Magistrate Court in Wuse, Zone 2, Abuja where it emanated from.


He also stated that the order bore two conflicting dates – October 27, 2023 and April 26, 2023.


Justice Adeniyi added that even if the order was real, it was disrespectful for the EFCC to go before a Chief Magistrates Court to obtain an order to detain a person against whom a charge was pending before his court.


He, however, rejected Emefiele’s claim that the respondents violated his right to life.


“The provision of Section 33 of the Constitution is not in any way, applicable to the case at hand since the applicant did not place any materials before the court in support of the alleged likelihood of the violation of his right to life guaranteed by that provision,” Justice Awoniyi said.


The judge noted that to succeed in a case of breach of rights to life, an applicant must prove that a respondent threatened to kill him.


He added that a mere oral threat on the part of any of the respondents is not enough to sustain the action.


His words: “The threat should be backed up by an overt act of an attempt to kill or exhibition of weapon or materials capable of effecting the murder or killing of the applicant.


”In the present case, the applicant is very much alive. As such, the contention that his fundamental rights to life have been breached does not ordinarily arise.


“The issue about the likelihood of the applicant’s right to life being violated became academic and overtaken by events having been released from his detention of the fourth respondent on the 8th of November 2023 upon the order of this court.”


Apart from the N100 million fine, Justice Adeniy restrained the respondents from further arresting and detaining Emefiele without first obtaining an order from a court of competent jurisdiction.


He said:” It is hereby declared that the actions of the first and fourth respondents and their agents incarcerating the applicants from June 13, 2023, to October 26, 2023, when he was transferred to the custody of the fourth respondent (EFCC) and his further detention by the third and fourth respondents (Chairman of the EFCC and the commission) without arraignment in the court of law for the commission of any offence up until November 8, 2023, when, by the order of this court, the applicant was released on bail to his senior learned counsel, constitutes a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights to personal liberty preserved by the provision of Section 35 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 and Article 6 of the African charter on human and peoples right.


“Also, a sum of N100 million only is hereby awarded in favour of the applicant against the first and fourth respondents jointly as damages for the unlawful violation of his fundamental rights to his liberty.


“Without prejudice to the powers of the court concerning the criminal trial, the applicant is currently facing at the High Court of the FCT, the respondents are hereby restrained either by themselves, their officers, agents, or any person acting on their behalf from further re-arresting or detaining the applicants without an order of a court of competent jurisdiction. “


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