By Akinwale Akintunde
A director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Christie Chinyere Ekweonu, has urged the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to release her from detention.
Ekweonu, who is also a legal practitioner has been in EFCC detention since Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
Aside the EFCC, other respondent in the suit is the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
In the suit filed through her lawyers, Abdul Mohammed, Mase D. Acho and Francis Amedu, the applicant is praying the court to declare that her arrest and detention by the EFCC until she produces the person she stood surety for is illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires of the statutory duties of the commission under the Nigerian laws.
Ekweonu is also asking the court to declare that the EFCC has no power whatsoever to detain her on the grounds that the person she stood surety for cannot be found. She therefore urged the court to direct the EFCC to release her with immediate effort.
She is also seeking N5 million as general damages for the infringement of her rights as protected under section 35, and 41 of Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the African Charter on Human and People’s Right.
In her affidavit of facts, the applicant stated that as a legal practitioner, she stood surety for one Mr. Chidi Duru in 2010 when the EFCC arrested the said Duru pursuant to an investigation of a petition submitted by the shareholders of First Guarantee Pensions Limited premised on a Target Examination Report prepared by the National Pension Commission.
According to the applicant, after the commencement of the investigation, the Federal High Court in a judgment delivered by Justice D.U. Okorowo on July 18, 2012 in Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/709/2011 nullified the Target Examination Report.
“From the time of the nullification of the Target Examination Report, the applicant believed that she has been released of her bond.
“However, when the respondents continued to request Duru to come to their office, the said Duru petitioned the office of the H Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice.
“The AGF wrote several letters to the respondents requesting them to advise him of the status of the investigation.
“The respondents have failed and refused to do so.
“Now the respondents have arrested the applicant on the grounds that the person she stood surety for is not found.
“The actions of the respondents is a gross violation of the applicant’s right to personal liberty and freedom of movement as protected by section 35(1) and 41 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),” she stated.
Her lawyers said “The arrest and detention of Ekweonu was carried out despite the fact that Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) forbids the arrest of a person in place of suspect. Specifically, Section 78 of the Act forbids the arrest and detention of surety.
“She argued that the best that can be done when a suspect runs away is to forfeit the bail bond signed.
“For an accused that jumped bail if the matter is already in court, the best that could be done is to issue a bench warrant and none of these have been done.”