Court orders EFCC to pay Nyako N12.5m for illegal detention
Arraigns aide in N700 million alleged fraud
The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to pay the sum of N12.5 million as damages in favour of Senator Abdulaziz Nyako for illegal detention and unlawful freezing of his account.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole gave the order while delivering judgment in the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed against the anti-graft agency by Senator Nyako, son of former Governor of Adamawa State.
Justice Kolawole in his ruling held that the applicant was detained in the custody of the Commission in excess of the period prescribed by law.
While berating EFCC over what he described as “reckless tampering with the rights of citizens in the name of discharging it’s statutory duties”, the judge also held that declaring the applicant wanted without evidence of crime, amounted to a breach to his fundamental human rights.
The judge accused the Commission of embarking on a judicial fiat which is unpardonable exhibition of ignorance of the law as the National Assembly never intended to give it the powers of an accuser and a judge.
He said: ”The reckless tampering with the rights of citizens in the name of carrying out statutory duties is an act to subvert, not only the letters but also the spirit of the constitution.’’
Justice Kolawole further held that the EFCC acted illegally beyond their powers to have frozen his personal account for two years without a valid court order.
The judge maintained that the National Assembly cannot empower any agency or statutory body to act in defiance to the constitution.
“In the instant case, the applicant was in the custody of the respondent between February 12 to 17, 2016 and released on the February 17 without being charged to court. No matter the date, the question is, has there been a violation of his right?
“I hold that there was an infringement of his fundamental human rights because he was detained for three days in excess of the period prescribed by law.”
“I hold that the EFCC acted with a guilty knowledge just to injure the applicant’s status and pride as son of a former governor.”
Justice Kolawole also held that the EFCC acted against sections 28 and 29 of its Act by freezing the personal account of the applicant for two years without obtaining from the court, an interim order of attachments or forfeiture.
On the issue of whether his arrest was illegal, the court held that the EFCC acted within its powers under section 7 of its Act.
Justice Kolawole said the applicant was arrested based on a petition dated October 10, 2011, by one Alhaji Sahid Umar, over alleged mismanagement of funds belonging to Adamawa State.
The court however, frowned at what it described as “recent trend” where remand orders are obtained from magistrate courts which have no jurisdiction on the alleged offences, by government agencies to keep an accused into custody beyond the constitutional period, adding that such actions amount to abuse of court process.
”I direct the affected agencies to take their exparte remand orders to the High Courts that have jurisdiction over the alleged offences as doing otherwise will bring the judiciary into disrepute with the public.”
Meanwhile, the anti-graft agency yesterday arraigned Ja’afaru Maliki, an aide to former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako in a N700 million alleged fraud alongside five other accused persons.
A statement issued on the court proceedings by EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren gave the names of the other accused persons as: Vwapamkai Bafyau, Director of Rural Access Mobility Project/World Bank; Farouk Abdullahi Tarja, director, Civil Works; James Zarma and Suleiman Mohammed, both deputy permanent secretaries, and Mamman Malgwi, a permanent secretary.
They were arraigned before Justice Balkisu Aliyu of a Federal High Court, Yola, Adamawa State.
The accused persons were slammed with a nine-count charge bordering on procurement fraud and diversion of funds to the tune of N700 million. The funds were meant for the development of the Yola bye-pass Phase 1 road project allegedly awarded to Nasser & Associate Global International Limited.
Uwujaren informed that a group, Adamawa Awareness for Change had petitioned the EFCC, which subsequently investigated the allegation of fraud and misappropriation of funds leveled against the suspects.
They pleaded not guilty and Justice Aliyu adjourned their trial to October 26, 27 and 28.