A Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti yesterday declined Governor Ayo Fayose’s bid to de-freeze his account frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). According to reports, Section 308 did not empower you to hold on to what doesn’t belong to you.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo ordered the EFCC and Zenith Bank, the first and second defendants, to show cause on July 4 why the order being sought by Governor Fayose should be refused.
He held that the order being sought by the plaintiff (Fayose) was a mandatory one, hence the defendants must be heard before the order is given.
Justice Taiwo said he understood that Fayose enjoyed immunity and that the court could adjudicate on the matter as canvassed by his counsel, Mike Ozekhome, but held that the relief he sought was a mandatory order of the court.
He said: “I agree that the applicant has immunity, pursuant to the provisions of the constitution. But it is glaring that the application he is requesting is a mandatory order to undo what had been done and the court can’t abdicate its duty under this circumstance.
“I am of the opinion that this mandatory order is better granted with the interlocutory order being sought through an application pending before the court, because the applicant has filed papers to this effect.
“I hereby ordered the first and second respondents to appear before this court on July 4 and show why the order should be refused.
“This is not a refusal of the order. I have not refused it; I only put it in abeyance, which I said without prejudice to what will be the position of the respondents.
“But a leave is granted for the service of the defendants with the originating summons in their addresses as contained in the order papers.”
The anti-graft agency on June 21 froze Fayose’s Zenith Bank accounts with the following numbers 1003126654 and 9013074033 for allegedly being used to launder over N1.2 billion believed to be part of the $2.1 billion arms from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.)
Ozekhome had sought the mandatory order through an ex parte motion deposed to by a lawyer, Bimpe Olatemiju, to de-freeze Fayose’s accounts, pending the determination of the interlocutory application.
The motion was supported by an 18-paragraph affidavit, a lone exhibit, which was a letter issued to Governor Fayose by Zenith Bank confirming that the EFCC placed a restriction order on the accounts and a written address.
He also sought the leave of the court for the service of the originating summons on the defendants in their addresses outside the jurisdiction of the court as contained in the order papers, supported by a 17-paragraph affidavit.
Ozekhome said the order was brought pursuant to Order 26 Rule 8(1) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rule 2009 and Section 44(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the court the discretionary power to adjudicate on such matter.
He relied on the case of Abdulaziz Nyako Vs EFCC to buttress his argument that the EFCC lacks the power to freeze Fayose’s accounts without valid order of the court.
According to him, the EFCC action violated Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which conferred immunity on the government against civil and criminal procedure.
Ozekhome said: “It was appalling that the EFCC could play the ostrich to these valid constitutional requirements and take cognisance of the African Charters on Human and People’s Rights before taking the punitive stand against Fayose.”
Giving his submission, he said Fayose was persecuted for being a lone voice against perceived arbitrariness of the President Muhammadu Buhari government, noting that dissenting opinions were allowed in a democracy.
The plaintiff’s counsel told the court that the freezing of his client’s accounts unleashed hardship on his dependants. Ozekhome told the court to take cognisance of awarding cost against EFCC if the order is granted.