Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, from either inviting, harassing, and threatening to arrest or detain a renowned constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, for criticizing its former Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
Justice Ekwo gave the order while delivering judgment in a fundamental right enforcement suit filed by Ozekhome against EFCC.
Respondents in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/324/2018, were the EFCC, Magu, and one of its lead operatives, Abubakar Aliyu Madaki.
By the suit, Ozekhome had claimed that EFCC continued to harass him for being an outspoken critic of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in terms of the anti-corruption war led by Magu.
The court held that serial acts of intimidation and constant invitations the anti-graft agency extended to the senior lawyer, as well as threats to arrest, detain and humiliate him, over publications and speeches he made “in respect of the apparent opaqueness and lopsidedness of the corruption fight of the 1st Respondent (EFCC) under the leadership of the 2nd Respondent (Magu)”, were illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional.
It held that the action of the agency constituted a breach of the Ozekhome’s fundamental rights as enshrined in Sections 35, 37, 39, and 41 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and Articles 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12 & 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act, Cap. A9 LFN 2004.
The court said it was satisfied that Ozekhome established a case of intimidation and harassment by the Respondents
The judge held that though the court would always restrain itself from interfering with the functions of statutory bodies like the EFCC, “but that is only in so far as such agency is demonstrably shown to be acting pursuant to the veritable spirit of the law”.
“Where the act of such statutory body is shown to be manifestly predicated on ill-will, malice and animosity, the law will intervene.
“The Court will never allow the law to be used as instrument of vendetta or vindictiveness as established in this case.
“On the whole, I find that the Applicant has established clear case against the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents in the manner of incessant invitation to him.
“This has established the fact that his fundamental rights as enshrined in Ss. 35, 37, 39, and 41 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and, Articles 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12 & 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act, Cap. A9 LFN is likely to be contravened.
“In other words, the essence of this case in my opinion is to stop the Respondents from the likely contravening the rights of the Applicant by their actions toward him; where the case is that of likely breach, that is, threat on the part of the Respondents”.
Though the court made consequential orders restraining the Respondents from inviting, arresting, or detaining the Applicant, it, however, declined to either award damages in his favor or compel EFCC to apologize to him.
It held that such reliefs would only apply, “where the case is founded on where the infringement has occurred or is occurring”.