By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to pay N50million to a businessman, Babatunde Morakinyo, as exemplary damages.
The court, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, said it was satisfied that EFCC acted in breach of the 1999 Constitution, as amended when it forcefully arrested the Applicant within a court premise after he was released on bail.
The court specifically declared that “the abduction and detention of the Applicant”, from the Court premises by the EFCC on March 19, 2020, “after bail was granted to the Applicant by the Federal High Court, Abuja in Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/75/2020, is unlawful, unconstitutional and a breach of the Applicant’s right to personal liberty as guaranteed by Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 6 of The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act”.
It declared that the continuous detention of the Applicant in EFCC custody, from March 19 till April 4, 2020, after he had fulfilled all the conditions attached to his bail, also amounted to the violation of his fundamental rights.
“An order is hereby made awarding the sum of Fifty Million Naira (N50,000,000.00) exemplary damages in favour of the Applicant and against the Respondent for abusing its statutory powers and arbitrarily trampling on the fundamental rights of the Applicant”, Justice Ekwo held.
Aside from restraining the EFCC, either by itself, servants, privies, surrogates, agents, or anyone acting on its behalf, from further arresting or detaining the Applicant unless so ordered by a court, Justice Ekwo directed the anti-graft agency to within 14 days, publish a public apology to the Applicant in two national dailies.
Morakinyo had cited EFCC as the sole Respondent in his fundamental right enforcement suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/437/2020.
The Applicant told the court that he is a businessman resident in Lagos.
He told the court that he had on January 20, 2020, honoured an invitation the EFCC extended to him to appear at its head office at Jabi in Abuja.
According to him, upon presenting himself, he was “summarily arrested and detained”, and later arraigned before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
He said the court later ordered that he should be released to his lawyer, pending the perfection of his bail and with an undertaking from his lawyer to ensure his availability for trial.
The Applicant told the court that shortly after his lawyer, Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, wrote the undertaking and submitted it to the Deputy Chief Registrar (Litigation), operatives of the EFCC swooped on him and forcefully re-arrested him within the court premises despite the COVID-19 pandemic.