Ozekhome Calls For Strategic Fight Against Corruption

Legal Practitioner, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has said that the fight against corruption is something that must be done strategically and in such a way that the image of the country is not being hurt.

He said this while speaking on the recent cash haul in Nigeria by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), adding that “it makes too much of headlines and makes Nigeria look like a country of corruption.

“All the headlines in the last two years, are just about corruption and no country in its right senses would want to come and invest in your country if all they hear every day is corruption, corruption, corruption; because there ought to be sanity.”

Reduced To A Trafalgar Square

According to him, such hauls are eventually turning Nigeria into a subject of ridicule and a laughable show for the rest of the world.

“In fighting corruption, you must do it strategically, in such a way that you do not hurt the image of your country. When you begin to make hauls of money, a lot of these monies, orphaned from septic tanks, from canals, from ware houses, from shops from houses, abandoned, even as in the Osborne case, from flat 7A, in a seven-storey building, where you also have 7B and suddenly, 7A had about 43 million dollars, 23 million Naira and 27 thousand pounds, yet no one owns it; with the key to one of the safes showing clearly; it begins to make us a laughing stock – It becomes ludicrous.

“We are beginning to reduce the entire anti-corruption fight to one of a Trafalgar Square in London or one of a national theatre cinema or one of Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood, joined together – That is not how to fight corruption,” the lawyer asserted.

He made references to the United States, noting that in their fight against corruption, investigations are done secretly and thoroughly until facts are unraveled.

“The equivalent arms in the United States of America from where we borrowed our democracy, the Financial Action Tax Force, the CIA, the FBIA, the FBI; when they are fighting corruption, you hardly hear anything about it – They first investigate very thoroughly, they get the people, they carry out quiet sting operations.

“Many a time, until they have secured prosecution, until they have secured conviction or they are prosecuting, you can never hear the name of any citizen mentioned as regards corruption.”

He also made reference to a phone conversation he had with some foreign friends whom according to him, had asked: “Is your country all about corruption and nothing else, are you people so corrupt that there is nothing else in governance?”.

Mr Ozekhome who has faulted some of the methods through which corruption is being fought, however noted that he is against corruption and does not believe in it because according to him, it “downgrades a country’s existentialism.”

EFCC Appeals Unfreezing Of Ozekhome’s Account

EFCC Appeals Unfreezing Of Ozekhome's AccountThe Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed an appeal against the court ruling that unfroze the Guaranty Trust Bank account of a senior lawyer, Mr Mike Ozekhome, which contained 75 million Naira paid to him by Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.

In his ruling on Monday, Justice Abdulaziz Anka held that though it was not in doubt that the 75 million Naira came from Governor Fayose, Mr Ozekhome could not be held liable because there was no restriction on the Governor’s account at the time the money was paid to his law firm.

Justice Anka added that the freezing order earlier obtained by the EFCC in respect of Fayose’s accounts had been lifted by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti.

At the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, the anti-graft agency, however, alleged a miscarriage of justice and premised its appeal on three grounds.

One of the grounds was that “the learned trial judge erred in law when he set aside his own order of interim attachment before the expiration of 120 days granted to the EFCC to conclude its investigation”.

The Commission argued that at the point of granting its ex-parte application, the trial judge directed the Manager of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc., to attach the Statement of Account of the senior lawyer’s chamber with the bank for a period of 120 days, pending the determination of investigation and possible prosecution.

The EFCC said it was, however, dismayed that before the expiration of the 120 days, and while investigation was ongoing, the interim order of forfeiture was vacated by Justice Anka.

Court Unfreezes Ozekhome’s Account

Arik Air Takeover: Court Fixes May 15 For RulingThe Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has lifted the order freezing the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) account of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Mike Ozekhome, into which the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, allegedly paid him legal fees of 75 million Naira.

Justice Abdul Aziz Anka in his ruling held that though it was not in doubt that the 75 million Naira came from Gov Fayose, Mr Ozekhome could not be held liable because there was no restriction on Governor Fayose’s account at the time the money was paid to his law firm.

Justice Anka also noted that the freezing order earlier obtained by the EFCC in respect of Fayose’s accounts had been lifted by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti.

He said he would not allow himself to be lured into sitting as an appellate judge over the counter-decisions of Justice Mohammed Idris, who initially froze Fayose’s accounts and Justice Taiwo who later reversed the order.

EFCC Seeks Synergy With Sister Agencies

EFCC Seeks Synergy With Sister AgenciesThe Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, says all government agencies tasked to fight corruption must work in greater synergy for the benefit of all Nigerians.

The anti-corruption czar said this at a time when division among sister agencies has come into full public view.

This follows the rejection of his nomination as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC by the Nigerian Senate, on the basis of an indicting report from the Department of State Services.

Speaking at an anti-corruption summit hosted by Commission, Mr Magu tasked all stakeholders on collaboration.

On his part, the House Committee Chairman on Anti-corruption, Honourable Kayode Oladele, said political culture must be checked.

While a senior advocate, Mike Ozekhome, alleges official hypocrisy, former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, says behaviour tolerated by Nigerians is behaviour approved by the citizens.

The summit, themed ‘Building an Anti-Corruption Consensus in an Inter-Agency Environment’, took place on Monday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Ozekhome Asks Court To Unfreeze His Account

Mike OzekhomeA senior lawyer, Mr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to vacate the order freezing his account with the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB).

Mr Ozekhome’s application to set aside the freezing order would be heard on February 23.

Justice Abdulazeez Anka had on February 7, 2017 ordered a temporary forfeiture of 75 million naira found in the account.

The order followed an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which prayed the court to freeze the senior lawyer’s account temporarily on grounds that the said sum was suspected to be proceeds of crime.

In his application on Thursday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria requested for an order discharging and/or vacating forthwith, the interim order made ex-parte, which directed an interim order of forfeiture to freeze or attach the money for 120 days.

He also sought for an order restraining the Federal Government and the EFCC from dealing in anyway and manner, as to the operation or the proprietary rights of the ownership of the account.

Mr Ozekhome claimed that the application for an order for interim forfeiture of his account was done in bad faith by the anti-graft agency, stating that it did not comply with the statutory and judicial authorities in obtaining an interim order.

He said the EFCC allegedly suppressed material facts in obtaining the order, maintaining that the action was unconstitutional.

He added that the same offended sections 36, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution, saying there was no legal justification for the EFCC’s action.

He explained that the 75 million naira was a part-payment of legal fees from Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State.

On the issue of whether or not the funds in Governor Fayose’s account from which the said sum is posted to Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers’ GTB account is suspected proceed of crime, the SAN noted that it is currently on appeal as filed and entered by the selfsame counsel to the EFFC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo.

He asked that the matter be heard urgently, as the continued freezing of Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers’ account has rendered the chambers impecunious and unable to carry out its day-to-day activities.

Wrong Impression

The lawyer also said that the temporary freezing of his account has caused him untold embarrassment, public odium, obloquy and mental agony.

He alleged that the EFCC gave a very wide publicity to the said freezing or attachment in print, electronic and social media, thus giving the wrong impression that he has committed a criminal offence against the laws of the land.

On the material facts that EFCC purportedly suppressed, Ozekhome said the anti-graft agency did not disclose to Justice Anka, the fact that Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti had unfrozen Mr Fayose’s accounts forthwith, thereby allowing the governor to operate them before he transferred 75 million naira to Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers’ account.

He stated that as at the time Governor Fayose transferred 75 million naira to his chambers’ account, there was no court processes filed or served on the applicant, indicating that the EFCC was on appeal or asking the court to stay the execution of the order defreezing the governor’s account.

“Fayose, had himself withdrawn the sum of 5,000,000 naira in cash before transferring the sum of 75,000,000 naira to the account of Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers,” the lawyer said.

Court Orders Immediate De-freezing of Governor Fayose’s Accounts

Court Orders Immediate De-freezing of Governor Fayose's AccountsA Federal High court sitting in Ado Ekiti on Tuesday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to lift the restriction placed on some accounts belonging to Governor Ayodele Fayose in Zenith Bank.

The court also set aside an earlier order of a Federal High court, Lagos empowering the EFCC to freeze two accounts domiciled in the new generation bank.

The court has consequently ordered the EFCC to immediately defreeze the two accounts belonging to the governor without further delay, on the account that the anti-graft agency did not follow due process in confiscating them.

Delivering his judgement, the presiding Judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, said the rights of the governor had been unconstitutionally infringed upon, considering the circumstance of his office.

Justice Taiwo declared that apart from the immunity which Mr Fayose currently enjoyed as a sitting governor under section 308 of the constitution, it was wrong for the EFCC to have gone ahead to seize his two accounts in apparent perpetuity without first investigating him or making him a party.

He averred that rather than the EFCC freezing the governor’s accounts directly through the third party who did not enjoy any mandate from him, the governor himself ought to have been first investigated and brought into the picture.

The judge described Fayose as “a genuinely deprived person who rushed to the court to seek constitutional protection”.

The judge thereby gave a mandatory order the de-freezing, unblocking and making operational the two accounts by the respondents.

He said it was also the duty of any presiding judge to protect the said constitution and its interpretations whenever the need arises.

“The Plaintiff is entitled to be heard before his property or money can be seized, doing otherwise will amount to denying him fair hearing and constitutional rights”, he said.

The judge however refused to grant other relief sought by the governor, including a perpetual injunction restraining EFCC or its agents from further tampering with his property, and another one asking for payment of N5billion as exemplary damages.

“This court will not shield any person from due investigation and since Police cannot be stopped from investigating a crime, same goes for the First Respondent so as not to whittle down its functions”, the judge said.

EFCC lead counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo was absent at the court but Fayose’s lead counsel, Ozekhome, in his reaction described the judgment as the best to be so made the EFCC in history, saying it would checkmate the agency against years of brazen arbitrariness and excesses.

The EFCC had on June 21, 2016 confiscated the two accounts having allegedly contained a sum of N2.99billion out of the N2.3 billion arms money allegedly drawn by the governor from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki to prosecute his governorship election in 2014.

Fayose through his lawyer, Mr Mike Ozekhome approached the court and sought for the enforcement of his fundamental rights, which involved the de-freezing of the two accounts.

Appear Before Me Or Face Dire Consequences, Judge Tells Ekiti Speaker

Appear Before Me Or Face Dire Consequences, Judge Tells Ekiti SpeakerA Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti, on Tuesday ordered the Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Kola Oluwawole to appear before it on Wednesday, December 7 and explain why he refused to obey the order to swear in legislator-elect, Mr Toyin Obayemi or face a contempt charge.

At Monday’s proceeding, Justice Taiwo Taiwo ruled that the Speaker must comply with his order to inaugurate Obayemi as member representing Ado Ekiti Constituency 1, which was delivered on July 4, failing which appropriate steps will be taken to protect the integrity and powers of the court.

Obayemi is preferring a contempt charge against Oluwawole for disobeying the court order that he (Obayemi) be sworn in immediately as the legislator to replace Musa Arogundade who was removed by the Court and ordered to refund all salaries and allowances collected since June 5 when the Fifth Assembly was inaugurated.

The Court had annulled  Arogundade’s election and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Obayemi a Certificate of Return holding that the latter was not validly nominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the April 11, 2015 House of Assembly election.

The Jurist maintained that the proper thing must be done and the court order complied with by the Speaker who he said must consult with his lawyer on the implication of disobeying court order.

“The Speaker must obey the order of this court, the proper things should be done. For the avoidance of doubt, the Speaker should consult with his counsel against the next adjourned date most especially as court record shows that he has been served.

“I will never be intimidated by anybody, somebody was here before. Even if I die the Bench lives on,” he said.

He subsequently adjourned the case till December 7 for further hearing.

Earlier, the counsel to the Plaintiff, Mr Olayinka Sokoya, had told the court that he received a letter from the law chambers of a Senior Advocate, Mike Ozekhome, dated November 18, a day after the last day of sitting.

Sokoya explained that Ozekhome who is seeking to take over the defence of Oluwawole is praying the court for an adjournment of the case.

Presidential Committee On Corruption Presents Report      

Corruption, Itse sagayOne year after its inauguration, the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, has come out with its recommendations.

In its report from August 2015 to July 2016, the Executive Secretary, Bolaji Owasanoye, highlighted areas of concentration.

Amongst are the things that the committee maps out as sentencing guidelines for high profile cases where huge monies are trapped.

He decried the amount of monies that the Nigerian government has lost to such cases and its effect on the economy.

“If we do simple arithmetic of all those high profile cases, just add the sums and see how much you will come up with, it will be far above two trillion and because the state has not recovered the money, we will see the effect on the economy,” he said.

The chairman of the committee, Professor Itse Sagay, also added that Nigeria needs an upright judiciary without which the nation’s democracy would collapse.

The sudden raid of the houses of some judges by the DSS and the subsequent arrest of the judicial officers drew a plethora of reactions recently.

But Professor Sagay described the anti-corruption campaign of the President as right, while describing the criticism from Nigerians as totally wrong and shocking.

“We need the judiciary but we need an upright judiciary. Without that, one arm of government will collapse and democracy will collapse.

“Let us think of the implication of what is going on. If we don’t put the judiciary right or have a judiciary in which we have confidence, with integrity and honour, with moral authority, then we have no government and we have no democracy,” he said.

Judges’ Arrest: Former British Cop Berates Execution Of ‘Sting Operation’

vince-onyekwelu-judges-arrestThe arrest of some court judges by a combined team of Police and DSS officials in the early hours of Saturday, October 8 has continued to generate reactions.

While various judicial stakeholders have criticised the government for the arrest, a former British police officer, Vince Onyekwelu, has picked holes in the level of expertise displayed by the DSS during its execution of the operation.

The security analyst told Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily how the arrest should have been carried out, since it was believed to be a sting operation.

“We have to understand (that) one of the major concepts of a sting operation is deceit.

“When you talk about deceit, sting operations are planned to have this element of propaganda, element of treachery, element of ‘make believe’ (and) element of trying to deceive a potential criminal,” he explained.

Outer Shell

Speaking on Thursday’s edition of the programme, Onyekwelu expressed disappointment that Governor Nyesom Wike was able to interrupt the arrest of one of the judges at his residence in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

He stressed the importance of the strategy that ought to be used and questioned if the security operatives were capable and competent to carry out such operation.

“For example, there is what we call ‘the outer shell’.

“You have to block the entrance (and) position men at critical areas.

“It makes me to ask questions how come the Governor had access to go through this outer shell (and) come to the epicentre that he was able to influence what was going on there.

“You’re supposed to have an outer shell that is well-trained to contain and to stop any kind of politically exposed person that have got so much power.

“He (Wike) can tell you his concerns (while) you record them in your notebook and promise to get back to him in the next 24 hours, but not to give him access to influence what is going on,” he stated.

Although the DSS later justified its action by giving reasons for the arrest, the operation attracted criticisms from several notable Nigerians and professional bodies, including the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which asked the executive to release of the detained court justices.

femi-falana-speaks
Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana

Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, however, blamed legal practitioners for the harassment of judges.

The agency subsequently released all the judges on self-recognition one day after their arrest but they are to report at the agency’s office when requested to, as the investigation and preparation to charge them to court continue.

The judges are accused of misconduct, corruption and had been under investigation by the DSS.

Lawyers Responsible For Rot In Judiciary – Itsey Sagay

Itsey Sagay, JudiciaryLawyers, especially the senior ones are responsible for the rot in the judicial system. That is the view of a professor of law, Itsey Sagay.

In an exclusive interview with Channels Television, Professor Sagay said that the senior lawyers corrupted the judges and are largely responsible for the corruption in the system.

He condemned the reaction of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), saying the body lacked the moral premise to criticize the activities of the DSS which he said is lawful.

On whether the National Judicial Council has the capabilities to deal with the corruption in the bench, the law professor said that the NJC lacks the capacity because it is an emergency situation which demands unusual approach.

Judges Arrest: I Have No Objection To DSS’ Action – Abu Hamisu

Dr. Abu Hamisu, As reactions continue to trail the arrest of some judges over the weekend, a lecturer at the University of Abuja, Dr. Abu Hamisu, says he has no objection with the involvement of the Department of State Services (DSS) in the arrest.

The lecturer at the Political Science Department is of the opinion that if the government feels the DSS could play a crucial role in its anti-corruption campaign, there is nothing wrong with it.

“We’ve been advocating for collaboration and synergy building in such a way that all the security agencies can tap into the professionalism of one another depending on the case they want to prosecute.

“If (the) EFCC, ICPC and the government of the day feel that the DSS can be really decisive in the fight against corruption in this country, I have nothing against that,” the political scientist said.

Speaking on Tuesday on Sunrise Daily, Dr. Hamisu believes corruption is the cause of Nigeria’s underdeveloped stage, reiterating his stance on the DSS’ involvement.

“The most important thing is to ensure that corruption is really dealt with because the basis of our underdevelopment as a nation up to this very moment is corruption.

“For me, it’s something that has to do with those that are leading us and if they feel that they can give us result and DSS can play a role in this, I have no objection,” he insisted.

The academic warned that the future of the Nigerian child was at risk and called on stakeholders to tackle its menace headlong to ensure a brighter future.

“All we want is to ensure that we have a better future for our children.

“The future that we did not enjoy, the future that corruption denied us because some people were saddled with responsibilities that they abused and perverted,” he lamented.

Face-off With Wike

Dr. Hamisu’s remarks followed a face-off between the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and some DSS officials who were on an assignment to arrest a Federal High Court judge in Port Harcourt.

Nyesom-Wike-Governor-of-Rivers-State
Governor Nyesom Wike prevented the arrest of a judge in Rivers State

On getting wind of the planned arrest, Governor Wike went to the residence of the judge with the aim of averting the arrest.

He stated that it would not be appropriate to arrest a judge at an odd hour when he has not been declared as a criminal, but invited to have a chat which they said was the motive of the arrest.

The arrest caught the attention of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which asked the executive to release of the judge and some order court justices.

While a human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, blames legal practitioners for harassment of judges, the DSS gave reasons for the arrest.

The DSS subsequently released all the judges on self-recognition.

However, they are to report at the agency’s office when requested to, as the investigation and preparation to charge them to court continue.

The judges are accused of misconduct corruption and had been under investigation by the DSS.

DSS Releases Arrested Judges

DSS, arrested judges,The Department of State Service, DSS has released all the judges arrested during a nationwide raid of their residents at the weekend.

The judges, according to DSS sources were released on self-recognition but are to report at the agency’s office when requested to, as the investigation and preparation to charge them to court continue.

The judges were accused of corruption and had been under investigation by the DSS.

A spokesman for the DSS, Abdullahi Garba, explained shortly after the raid on Saturday that the service embarked on raids of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts judges’ residents based on allegations of corruption and other acts of professional misconduct.

According to him, “the Service action is in line with its core mandate, as we have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the Judges as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgment obtained fraudulently and on the basis of amounts of money paid.

“The judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched.

“The searches have uncovered huge raw cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of Naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these Judges”.

The DSS spokesman further explained that some of the judges had made useful statements while a few declined even with the glaring evidences that were found against them in terms of material cash, documents and property recovered pointing to their compromise.

“In one of the States where the Service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the Judge had Two Million United States Dollars ($2,000,000 USD) stashed in his house.

“When he was approached for due search to be conducted, he in concert with the State Governor, mobilised thugs against the Service team.

“The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the Governor.

“Unfortunately, the Judge and Governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.

“The Service surveillance team noticed that upon frustrating the operation, the Judge with the active support of the Governor craftily moved the money to an unknown location which the Service is currently making effort to unravel,” the statement read, remaining silent about who the governor was.

Face-off With Wike 

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who was involved in a face-off with DSS officials during one of the operations in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has condemned the action by the Department of State Services (DSS).

The State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, on getting wind of the plan to arrest a Federal High Court judge in the state went to the residence of the judge with the aim of averting the arrest.

Narrating the situation to newsmen in the state, Governor Wike said: “It appeared to be an attempt to kidnap some people, so I told my security details to arrange security for us to move to the place.

“We got here 10 minutes after 1:00 am, and saw some security agencies, I asked what was  going on and the security official said they were detailed to arrest a judge.

“I said it is never heard that by 1:00am (after one), you are here to arrest a judge when you could as well invite the judge.

“If you cannot reach the judge whoever the judge is, invite the judge through the Chief Judge and obviously, the judge must have to respond to your invitation”.

The Governor stated that it will not be appropriate to arrest a judge at an odd hour when he has not been declared as a criminal but invited to have a chat which they said was the motive of the arrest.