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.

DSS Did Not Disobey The Law On Judges’ Arrests – Jiti Ogunye

Jiti-Ogunye-Sunday-PoliticsLegal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye, sees nothing wrong in the manner in which the Department of State Service (DSS) executed its arrest of three Nigerian judges in the early hours of Saturday, October 8.

Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, Mr Ogunye explained the execution of the warrant of arrest, and quoted Section 148 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which states that a search warrant can be issued and executed at any time of the day including a Sunday or a public holiday.

He was reacting to the claim by constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, who had earlier on the programme, described the arrest of the judges as “most condemnable by any right thinking member of the society”.

Ozhekhome faulted the timing and manner of the arrest, claiming that the law does not allow for homes of suspects to be searched during the night or for doors to be broken in order to gain access.

Mr Ogunye berated Ozekhome for quoting an old law which, according to him, has since seized to be relevant. “People are not familiar with the law and those who should enlighten the public manipulate the law and they don’t disclose what the law has said.”

On the “gestapo” manner in which the arrest was done, he went further to read from Section 149 of the Act, where the law permits law enforcement agents to “break open any outer or inner door or window of any house or place of the suspect to be arrested” if access to such building cannot be obtained or is denied.

He argued that it has become impossible to deny that Nigeria has serious ethical issues in the judiciary, bordering on corruption.

In justifying the need to fight corruption, Mr Ogunye noted that corruption is the bane of the Nigerian society, “it has affected our development, stunted our growth and destroyed our country”.

Constitutional Mandate

Mr Ozekhome had also earlier argued that democracy only thrives on its adherence to the rule of law and the Nigerian government, by allowing the arrests, has gone against the values of democracy and the DSS has gone beyond its constitutional mandate.Mike-Ozekhome

“The DSS by our constitutional organogram has its own functions and these are to take care of the internal security of the country.

“Its counterpart the DIA, Directorate
of Intelligence Agency, is in charge of matters concerning military, while the NIA, Nigerian Intelligence Agency, is in charge of security matters that extend beyond the boundaries of Nigeria.

“The three legal entities that are allowed by our laws to go into corruption matters are the EFCC, the ICPC and the Nigerian Police, particularly under Section 4.

“So, their action is faulted fundamentally on the ground that they were going beyond their constitutional and statutory mandate,” he said.

Again, Mr Ogunye disagreed with Mr Ozekhome’s argument.

“This law was made during the military era and it has wide implications,” he argued, adding that the law also added that the DSS can be saddled with any issue the President feels affects the internal security of the country.

“The corruption of the judiciary that wants to destroy the third arm of government can be deemed, and in fact I will deem it, as something that is affecting the security of the country,” he said.

Fayose’s Aide, Abiodun Agbele Gets Bail

Fayose's aide, EFCC, Abiodun AgbeleEkiti State Governor, Mr Ayo Fayose’s aide, Abiodun Agbele, whom anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested has been granted bail in the sum of 50 million naira.

The court also ordered the EFCC to pay Mr Agbele a damages fee of five million naira.

The investigations by the EFCC over monies linked to Governor Fayose took a new twist on Thursday at an Abuja High Court where Justice Olukayode Adeniyi asked the anti-graft agency to pay the fine for what it described as the arbitrary abuse of power and unlawful detention of Mr Agbele without charging him to a court of competent jurisdiction in line with the constitution.

Justice Adeniyi also ordered the immediate release of his personal property which were seized by the anti-graft agency.

Mr Agbele had through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome filed a 500 million naira suit challenging his detention by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission without charging him to court.

Mr Agbele’s principal, the Governor of Ekiti State, has had his bank accounts frozen in a related case bothering on fraud allegations, a decision the Governor has sworn to fight hard in court.

Certificate Controversy: Buhari’s Eligibility Suit Adjourned Until March

Gen-Muhammadu-Buhari-1
Gen Muhammadu Buhari

A Federal High Court will on March 19 hear ‎all applications, challenging the eligibility of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari, to contest in the forthcoming presidential election.

At the resumed hearing on Monday of two earlier suits filed by Chukwunweike Okafor and Donald Daunamigba, counsel to the plaintiff, Mike Ozekhome, told the court that he was willing to continue with the argument, noting that he had not been served with all processes.

After his observation, he was served with the process, but he asked the court for a short date to enable him study the process.

He further requested for accelerated hearing, pointing out that that the outcome of the case would have effect on the forthcoming elections.

But the Defence Counsel, Akin Olujimi and Lateef Fagbemi, were quick to respond that the outcome of the case could not be a condition precedent on the conduct of the election, reminding the court that there was an application requesting that the court should set aside the totality of the summon on Buhari, which had not been respond to.

The Federal High Court Judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, adjourned the case till March 19 to enable the court hear all the applications including those seeking for joinder.

There are 13 suits instituted against the APC’s presidential candidate, General Buhari, challenging his eligibility to contest in the March 28 presidential election.

The plaintiffs in the suits also argued that failure of Buhari to accompany his form CF001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with his certificates of academic qualifications, rendered him ineligible to participate in the poll.

They stressed that failure to submit the said certificate, would mean had failed to comply with the provisions of sections 131 and 318 of the Nigerian Constitution and section 31 (3) of the Electoral Act.

Desperation Of DisinformationBuhari certificate 2

Responding to the certificate controversy, the APC had dismissed claims that General Buhari was not qualified to contest in the elections.

Government College, formerly Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, which General Buhari graduated from in 1961, had released his Secondary School Certificate Examination results.

Before the certificate was released, General Buhari had described the claims as ‘desperation of disinformation’.

“I have contested elections three times and that’s the same rule by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where there is basic education qualification that you have and I was allowed to contest all these election because my certificate was in order.

“There are even individuals that wrote to the United States War College and the College answered them and its published in some of your papers .

“Really, this desperation of disinformation that is being passed around will do nobody any good because our minds are being taken away from the serial issues of corruption and incompetence by the PDP, ” the former military president said.

Court To Return Farouk Lawan’s Case For Reassignment

Farouk LawanJustice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory High Court has struck out the case against the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, and its Secretary, Boniface Emenalo.

Justice Banjoko explained that she had no interest in continuing with the case and would return it to the Chief Judge of the FCT for reassignment to another judge.

At the last adjourned date, counsel to Lawan, Mr Mike Ozekhome, had applied that the case be returned to the Chief Judge of the FCT for hearing and determination, since his client wasn’t satisfied with the attitude of the judge to his case.

The prosecution counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, did not object to the case being struck out.

Farouk Lawan and Boniface Emenalo had been standing trial for allegedly obtaining $620,000 bribe from an oil magnet, Femi Otedola.