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October 23, 2023

Eligibility: Court okays suits seeking to sack new EFCC chairman, Olukoyede

EFCC secures 3,175 convictions, recovers N156bn in one year

EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA — The Federal High Court has okayed two separate suits seeking to sack the newly appointed chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede.

Both suits were brought before the court by legal practitioners, Mr. Stanley Okawara and Mr. Maxwell Opara.

Whereas the first suit, marked: FHC/KN/CS/280/202, was lodged before the Division of the court in Kano State, the second suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1410/2023, is pending before the Abuja Division.

Already, Justice Abdullahi Liman of the Kano court has fixed October 30 to hear a motion on notice seeking to restrain the EFCC chairman, whose appointment was confirmed by the Senate on October 12, from exercising the powers and functions of the office or drawing salaries and emoluments as an occupant of the office, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

Though the plaintiff had through his lawyer, Mr. Jideobi Johnmary, filed an ex-parte application for the court to issue an order of interim injunction against Olukoyede, Justice Liman, however, ordered him to go and put all the defendants on notice.

Cited as defendants in the matter are President Bola Tinubu, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and the EFCC.

The court directed the plaintiff to join both the EFCC chairman, Olukoyede and Secretary of the Commission, Muhammad Hammajoda, as 4th and 5th defendants in the matter, respectively.
Justice Liman further granted permission to the plaintiff to serve a copy of the court process on President Tinubu, by serving same on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.

Besides, the court okayed substituted service of the suit on the Senate President, through the clerk of the Senate.

It equally abridged the time within which all the defendants should enter appearance and file their respective processes to 15 days.

Specifically, the plaintiff is, among other things, praying the court to determine “whether having regard to the combined provisions of Section 1(1), 1 (2), and (3), 4 and 15(5) of the Amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 2 (1) (a) of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004, the 1st defendant (Tinubu) is possessed of the constitutional powers to appoint anyone who is not a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent to the position of the Chairman of the 3rd Defendant?
“Whether having regard to the combined provisions of Section 1(1), 1 (2), and (3), 4 and 15(5) of the Amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 2 (1) (a) of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004, the 2nd defendant (Akpabio) is possessed of the constitutional powers to receive and consider for screening and ratification by the Nigerian Senate anyone who is not a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent to the position of the Chairman of the 3rd Defendant?”.

Upon determination of the legal questions, the plaintiff wants an order of the court “restraining anyone (appointed by the 1st Defendant) who is not a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent (with 15 years cognate experience) from assuming duties or performing the functions or exercising the powers of the chairman of the 3rd Defendant.

“An order nullifying and setting aside – as a nullity- the appointment and ratification as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, of anyone who is not a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent (with 15 years cognate experience) in the event those appointment and ratification take place before the judgment of this Honourable Court is delivered in this case.”

Meanwhile, in the case pending in Abuja, the plaintiff, Opara, is praying the court to determine; “Whether having regard to Section 2 (1)(a)(i) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, it is unlawful and a void act for a person not statutorily qualified to be appointed by the President Federal Republic of Nigeria to hold the office of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission who, by law, shall be the chief executive and accounting officer of the commission.

“Whether having regard to 2 (1) (a)(iii) of The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, the appointment of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission who by Law shall be the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Commission on the 12th day of October, 2023, is void abinitio, conferring or extinguishing no legal rights whatsoever for not possessing atleast 15 years’ cognate experience of law enforcement.

“Whether the sole qualification of being a legal practitioner can equate the to the rank of any government security or law enforcement agent in Nigeria without formal enrolment into same.

“Whether the 4th defendant who is not an active nor a retired security agent or law enforcement agent but a legal practitioner of not less than 22 years’ Post-call and 6 years’ experience of rendering administrative services within the commission is qualified to be appointed as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission who by Law shall be the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the commission.

“Whether the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, has unfettered discretion to bluntly disregard the provisions of the law donating and guiding in exercising his power to appoint a chairman for the commission as donated under section 2 (3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.”

He is seeking an order, “setting aside and nullifying the appointment of the 4th Defendant as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on the 12th day of October, 2023.

“An order of injunction restraining the 4th Defendant, acting by himself or through his agents and servants, from continuing to hold out, present and or parade himself as chairman of the Economic and Crimes Financial Commission.”

Listed as 1st to 4th defendants in the matter that is yet to be assigned to a judge for hearing, are President Tinubu, the AGF, EFCC and its embattled chairman, Olukoyede.