Court to hear Ozekhome’s suit to unfreeze N75m legal fees from Fayose
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday fixed March 2 for the hearing of a suit filed by a human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), seeking to vacate the order freezing his firm’s bank account containing his N75 million legal fees from Ekiti Governor Ayodele Fayose.
Justice Abdulazeez Anka ordered that a hearing notice be issued on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the court had on Feb. 7 ordered a temporary forfeiture of N75 million found in the applicant’s Guaranty Trust Bank account following an application by the EFCC.
When the case was called on Thursday, the EFCC was not represented in court. Addressing the court, Ozekhome said his suit was filed on Feb. 14 and that EFCC was served on Feb. 20 according to a proof of service.
Justice Anka noted that the commission was still within time to respond. He said the commission was entitled to seven days which, he said, had not lapsed, adding that the commission should be allowed their clear seven days.
In his response, Ozekhome asked for the earliest possible date for hearing of his application, insisting that the suit was urgent.
Ozekhome, who is seeking the immediate vacation of the interim forfeiture order, argued that the EFCC’s application for the interim order was done in bad faith.
The commission, he said, did not comply with the statutory and judicial authorities in obtaining an interim order through a motion ex-parte.
According to him, the respondent suppressed material facts in obtaining the order and as such, “the action is unconstitutional as same offends constitutional provisions.”
He said the EFCC did not disclose to the court that Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti, had unfrozen Gov. Ayodele Fayose’s accounts forthwith.
He said the unfreezing order allowed the governor to operate his account before transferring the sum of N75 million to his chambers’ account.
The lawyer said that the N75 million was part payment of his legal fees from Gov. Fayose of Ekiti State.
He further argued that the EFCC’s application and the subsequent order were based on non-compliance with court rules and judicial authorities regulating the granting of ex-parte application.
“The entire gamut of the application leading to the granting of the interim order ex-parte amounts to forum shopping and a calculated attempt to over-reach me.”
He submitted that the issue, whether the said sum formed proceeds of a crime, was currently on appeal. Justice Anka adjourned the suit to March 2.