A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered a stay of further proceedings in a fundamental rights suit file by a senior lawyer, Mr. Ricky Tarfa (SAN).
Tarfa had filed the suit following his arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for allegedly shielding his clients from arrest.
He had filed the suit, claiming N2.5 billion against the respondent over violation of his rights as enshrined in the constitution.
The applicant is also seeking the release of his SUV car and mobile cell phones, which he said were seized by the commission.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Mohammed Idris, granted EFCC’s request for a stay of proceedings.
The court said that the order for stay of proceedings was pending the final determination of a criminal charge pending against Tarfa, before a Lagos High Court.
Idris held that even though, there was no law forbidding the hearing of both civil and criminal matters together, a court retains discretion to stay civil proceedings during the pendency of criminal proceedings.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the substantial part of the reliefs sought herein does have a direct bearing with the charge pending at the Lagos High Court.
“It is clear from the evidence before the court that the applicant’s mobile handset and SUV have been registered as exhibits to be tendered at the criminal proceedings.
“Also, the information and data retrieved from the mobile handset are to be used as evidence in the criminal charge at the Lagos High Court.
“There is a potential injustice that may befall the defendant in the prosecution of the criminal charge, if this suit is to proceed to judgment and for instance, judgment is given in favour of the applicant.
“There is a strong possibility that it will signal the end of the criminal charge at the Lagos High Court.
“This court should not make orders that will strike violently at the heart of the criminal charge now pending at the Lagos High Court.
“For the above reasons, I am of the view that in the light of the peculiar circumstances of this case, this is a proper case which proceedings should be stayed pending the hearing of the criminal charge,” he said
In the substantive suit, Tarfa is asking the court to compel the anti-graft agency to pay him N2.5billion for violation of his rights.
Joined as defendants are: the commission’s acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, Moses Awolusi, and the Deputy Director Operations, EFCC Lagos office, Iliyasu Kwarbai.
Tarfa also asked the court to compel the defendants to release his two cell mobile phones allegedly collected from him on February 5 in Lagos by the defendants.
He also sought an order urging the court to direct the defendants to release his Mercedes Benz SUV with registration No. KJA 700CG he said was unlawfully seized from him.