By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Abuja Federal High Court on Monday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to pay N50 million to a businessman, Babatunde Morakinyo, as exemplary damages.
The court, in a ruling handed down by Judge Inyang Ekwo, said it was convinced that EFCC acted in violation of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, when it forcibly arrested the applicant within the court premises after he was released on bail.
The court specifically stated that “the kidnapping and detention of the applicant”, from the court premises by the EFCC on March 19, 2020, “after the Federal High Court granted the applicant bail, Abuja in charge No: FHC / ABJ / CR / 75/2020, it is illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of the Applicant’s right to personal liberty guaranteed by Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 6 of the African Bill of Rights Human and Peoples (Ratification and Execution Law) ”.
It stated that the continued detention of the Claimant in the custody of the EFCC, from March 19 to April 4, 2020, after having complied with all the conditions attached to his bond, also amounted to the violation of his fundamental rights.
“An order is issued granting the sum of Fifty Million Nairas (N50,000,000.00) for exemplary damages in favor of the Claimant and against the Respondent for abusing their legal powers and arbitrarily trampling the fundamental rights of the Claimant,” he said. Judge Ekwo.
Aside from restraining the EFCC, whether by itself, servants, latrines, substitutes, agents, or anyone acting on its behalf, from arresting or detaining the Applicant unless ordered to do so by a court, Judge Ekwo ordered to the anti-corruption agency within 14 days, publish a public apology to the Requester in two national newspapers.
Morakinyo had cited EFCC as the sole defendant in his fundamental rights enforcement lawsuit marked FHC / ABJ / CS / 437/2020.
The plaintiff told the court that he is a businessman residing in Lagos.
He told the court that on January 20, 2020, he had complied with an invitation extended to him by the EFCC to appear at its head office in Jabi in Abuja.
According to him, upon appearing, he was “arrested and summarily detained”, and then tried before Judge Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Federal High Court.
He said the court later ordered that he be released with his lawyer, pending his bond and his lawyer’s commitment to ensure his availability for trial.
The plaintiff told the court that shortly after his attorney, Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, wrote the compromise and presented it to the Deputy Chief Secretary (Litigation), agents from the EFCC pounced on him and re-arrested him for the force within the court premises. despite the COVID-19 pandemic.