A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to delete the name of a businessman, Dr. Kenedy Sule Izuagbe, from its websites as a wanted person.
Justice Lewis Allagoa, also ordered the EFCC to publish unreserved apology to the businessman on its websites and on social media. Izuagbe is an ally of the former, Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Besides, the court awarded a cost of N5 million, against the EFCC for breaching the businessman’s fundamental rights.
Justice Allagoa made the orders, while delivering judgment in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed against the agency by Izuagbe.
Izuagbe had in suit number FHC/L/CS/2127/2021, filed by his lawyer, Mrs. Ifeoma Esom, sought for a declaration that the EFCC has no power or authority to declare him “wanted” without any order of a court of competent jurisdiction and in the absence of any facts providing reasonable suspicion that he has committed an offence to warrant such declaration.
He also asked for a declaration that the action of the EFCC in declaring him wanted and publishing his name on its official website without any prior order or leave of a court of competent jurisdiction is illegal, wrongful, ultra vires and constitutes a flagrant violation of his fundamental rights to personal liberty, private and family life as guaranteed under Sections 34, 35, 37 and 41 of the Constitution.
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He urged the court to order the EFCC to forthwith remove his name, from the list of “Wanted Persons” published on its official website and to publish a retraction of that declaration in one national newspaper circulating within Nigeria within seven days of the judgment of this honourable court.
He also demanded the sum of N500 million as compensation for the violation of his fundamental rights to personal liberty, freedom of movement and right to private and family life.
He had through his lawyer, Mrs. Esom told the court that he had secured two judgments delivered by Justice Muhammad Limam and Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, both of the Federal High Court, which exonerated his firm, Carlisle Property and investment Limited from all forms of allegations.
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However, the EFCC in a counter-affidavit deposed to by one of its Litigation clerk, Babana Job, told the court that the agency had sometimes in 2019, received credible intelligence which revealed an alleged monumental fraud involving about N5 billion, allegedly siphoned from the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service with the active connivance of some private firms/companies including Carlisle Property and Investment Limited that which the Kenedy Sule Isuagbe, is the MD.
The EFCC stated that the said intelligence was investigated and that in the course of the investigation, letters of investigation were written and dispatched to several individuals, organisations and financial institutions, while replies were received and analysed.
The commission also stated that preliminary investigation showed that the applicant and some other persons were fingered in a massive money laundering scheme.
It also states that the applicant was invited to come and explain some aspects of his business dealings and activities of his company, but did not honour the invitation of the commission but after several persuasions the commission was able to secure his attendance.
It stated further that the commission magnanimously granted the plea of the applicant on medical and humanitarian grounds, but was given a month to report back to the Commission and that after the expiration of the time given to report, the applicant failed to show up as promised.
The commission stated that it had to seek public help and corporation in the most legal way, and it applied for and was granted a warrant of arrest by the FCT Magistrate Court.
The anti-graft agency said it was based on the said order of court the Commission declared the applicant wanted.
However, Justice Allagoa, in his judgement overruled the arguments put forward by the EFCC, and held that “the action of the EFCC declaring Dr. Kennedy Sule Izuagbe, as a wanted person, despite two judgments of the Federal High Court, which superseded the order obtained by the EFCC from a Magistrate Court, in Abuja, amounts to breach of the applicant’s fundamental rights”.
Justice Allagoa consequently ordered that “the EFCC to delete the name of a businessman, Izuagbe, from its websites as a wanted person and to also publish unreserved apology to the businessman on its websites and social media.The court also awarded a cost of N5 million, against the EFCC for breaching the businessman’s fundamental rights.