Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Maitama has reserved judgment in a fundamental rights suit filed against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by an aide to Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, Abiodun Agbele.
Agbele slammed a N500 million Naira suit against the EFCC challenging the legality of his detention without trial since June 27, 2016 by the anti-graft agency and the enforcement of his fundamental right to liberty in line with provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Agbele in the suit claimed that he has been in detention at the custody of the EFCC since June 27, this year in respect of an alleged N1.3 billion reportedly traced to Fayose’s personal account.
Agbele, in the court action instituted on his behalf by Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and legal practitioner, Olalekan Ojo, prayed the court to award him a sum of N500 million as compensatory damages for his unlawful arrest and detention.
At the sitting of the court yesterday, Ozekhome informed the court that the matter before it is an application for the enforcement of Agbele’s fundamental rights dated and filed on July 11, 2016.
Ozekhome told the court that the applicant has presented a 33-paragraph affidavit and a 9-paragraph affidavit of urgency in support of the application.
Citing amongst others, Sections 34(1), 36(1), 37, 44(1), 46(1) of the 1999 Constitution, Ozekhome urged the court to grant the application for the release Agbele in either self-recognizance or in liberal terms, as the offences are bailable.
He faulted the detention of his client for about three weeks, recalling that Agbele was earlier granted bail on stringent conditions that he was unable to meet. He told the court that the EFCC had asked for more time to investigate further and urged the court to not grant the request of the EFCC, citing on point of law, a Supreme Court judgment in Gani Fawehinmi vs. IGP, where the apex court held that arrests could only be made after investigations have been conducted.
Respondent Counsel, Andrew A. Akoja, in opposition to the application, said: “We are fortified by Exhibits: EFCC 09 and 12 which are orders made by a court in Nigeria. “We admit that a Magistrate Court is an inferior court to your lordship’s, but statutes have bestowed powers on the court to act as it has done in this case,” Akoja alleged that Agbele had been evasive when he was sought for cooperation and it took a special unit to track him down.On the issue of stringent bail conditions imposed on him, Akoja told the court that Agbele did not approach the court to seek variation of the bail conditions if he indeed claimed it was stringent, but proceeded to file a fundamental rights suit instead.
He said the second remand order acquired on July 13 in Lagos was a warrant of a court and therefore urged Justice Olukayode to hold that the Lagos Magistrate Court that granted the order, in its respect, would not have granted the order if the applicant had been innocent.He said: “Bail is at the discretion of a court. The same court that has the power to grant bail has the power to remand.”
Akoja insisted that Agbele would jump bail if granted, because a lot has passed through him.
While he repeated that the applicant is not innocent, Justice Adeniyi was quick to remind him that a person is innocent before the law until it is proven otherwise, more so as Agbele had not been charged with of any crime yet.
Akoja told the court that a remand order had been obtained by EFCC to make the arrest and detention legal and in due process of the law and therefore urged the court to dismiss the application for lacking merit, baseless and unwarranted.
Ozekhome in his response, said: “The last time I checked, the Nigerian criminal justice system is accusatorial and not the French model of inquisitorial, where guilt is assumed and innocence will need to be proven.”
Ozekhome concluded that it is impunity on the part of the respondent to have gone to another court to seek an order that may seem to have been done to render the court helpless. Justice Adeniyi, after taking the submissions of both parties, reserved judgment in the matter till next Tuesday, July 19.