An Imo State High Court has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to pay Chief Mike Ikenna Ahamba, SAN, “the sum of N5 million as damages and compensation for the violation of his fundamental rights”.
Delivering judgment in suit number HOW/908/2017, which lasted for about one hour, 30 minutes, Justice Eze Fred Njemanze equally ordered the EFCC and the Chairman of EFCC, to “pay a cost fixed at N100,000 in favour of the Applicant (Ahamba)”.
“In conclusion, this fundamental right proceeding succeeds as it is meritorious and deserving to be granted. Injunction is granted restraining the Respondents, their agents, servants, officials and all those acting through or under them, from further detention of the Applicant (Ahamba) or further inviting him, save for him to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction over the allegation for trial or for the purpose of issuing a clearance certificate to the Applicant,” Justice Njemanze said.
According to the Judge, “a perusal of the facts adumbrated by the parties in this matter, show that the Respondents did not deny detaining the Applicant for six days, from November 22 to 28, 2017.”
He also said that the Respondents did not deny seizure of the Applicant’s International Passport, adding that they did not equally “deny searching his house with armed guards, like a common criminal, in the full glare of neighbours”.
It was the considered opinion of Njemanze that “the EFCC Act 2004, Section 6, 7, 14, 17, 18 and 28 did not admit of the operators of that Law and Officials infringing on the fundamental rights of citizens of this country or any other person for that matter.”
While recalling that Chief Ahamba’s first lengthy statement made May 3, 2016, was not faulted and stands sure, Njemanze also added that although Ahamba gave the Respondents notice to produce it, they failed to do so but preferred exhibiting the additional statements of November 22 and 24, 2017, after search was conducted in his house.
Tackling the Order of the Chief Magistrate Court, Enugu, which permitted the Respondents to keep the Applicant in their custody, may be ad infinitum, Njemanze said it was neither reasonable nor justifiable.
“The Respondents cannot mount on such unconstitutional Order to violate the fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined in Sections 35 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution viz freedom of liberty and movement and which they did in the instant case”, Justice Njemanze said.
He also ruled that the provisions of Sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Act cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be interpreted to give power or empower the officials of EFCC, to seize, impound or withdraw the Applicant’s passport, or any other citizen for that matter.
“The EFCC or any official of the Commission did not have the power to prevent the Applicant from going abroad for medical treatment, nor does any such power reside in them. The rule of law must remain the guide and protector of all persons in Nigeria and not the rule of arbitrariness and oppression,” Njemanze said.