Court fines EFCC N5m for illegally declaring man wanted

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A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to pay the sum of N5million to a businessman, Dr Kennedy Izuagbe, for illegally declaring him wanted.

Presiding over the court, Justice Lewis Allagoa also ordered the EFCC to publish an unreserved apology to the businessman on its websites and social media pages.

Justice Allagoa gave the orders against the EFCC while delivering judgment in a fundamental rights enforcement suit brought against the agency by Izuagbe.

Izuagbe had dragged the EFCC before the court through his lawyer, Mrs Ifeoma Esom, in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/2127/2021, seeking a declaration that the respondent had 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 had committed an offence to warrant such declaration.

Izuagbe had also sought a declaration that the action of the EFCC in declaring him a wanted person and publishing his name on its official website without any prior order or leave of a court of competent jurisdiction is illegal and constitutes a flagrant violation of his fundamental rights as guaranteed under Sections 34, 35, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution (As amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Articles 2, 3(1) & (2), 4, 5, 6, 7, and 2 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 2004.

Izuagbe also sought an order of the court for the anti-graft agency to pay him the sum of N500million as compensation for the violation of his fundamental rights.

Urging the court to grant the application, Mrs Esom told the court that her client had two judgments delivered by Justice Muhammad Limam and Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, of the Federal High Court, which exonerated his firm, Carlisle Property and Investment Limited, from all forms of allegations.

However, the EFCC in a counter-affidavit by one of its litigation clerks, Babana Job,and argued by one of its counsel, Ayanfeoluwa Ogunsina, told the court that the agency had in 2019, received intelligence, which revealed an alleged monumental fraud involving about N5billion, allegedly siphoned from the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service with the active connivance of some private companies, including Carlisle Property and Investment Limited.

The anti-graft agency also stated that preliminary investigation showed the applicant and some other persons were fingered in a massive money-laundering scheme, adding that it applied for a warrant of arrest which was granted by the FCT Magistrates’ Court.

According to the EFCC, the applicant was declared wanted based on the said order of the court.

But Justice Allagoa, while delivering judgment in the suit, held, “The action of the EFCC declaring Dr Kennedy Izuagbe as a wanted person, despite two existing judgments of the Federal High Court, which superseded the order obtained by the EFCC from a Magistrates’ Court in Abuja, amounts to a breach of the applicant’s fundamental rights.”

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