Judge Orders EFCC to Adopt Civilised Approach, Stop Arresting Suspects before Investigation

  • Orders release of Fayose’s aide

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

An Abuja High Court has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to released the detained aide of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, Mr. Abiodun Agbele.

 EFCC had arrested Agbele in Lagos on June 28 kept him in its custody on the grounds that it was investigating him in relation to the  N1,299,490,000 it said was found in his account.

EFCC said the amount was proceeds of economic and financial crime in which Agbele “was found to have allegedly assisted in receiving and concealing in conspiracy with the former Defence Minister, Musiliu Obanikoro and Fayose.”
EFCC said it obtained a remand warrant from a Magistrate Court in Lagos on June 30 to keep Agbele for 14 days, but moved him to Abuja on July 1.

It later applied to a Magistrate Court in Abuja on July 13 for another remand warrant, two days after Agbele had initiated his suit.

Justice Olukayode Adeniyi in his judgment yesterday, descended heavily on EFCC faulting the procedure adopted by the commission in arresting and detaining  suspects.

The judge noted that the EFCC has of recent, engaged in unwarranted violation of citizens’ rights through wrongful detention before investigation.

Justice Adeniyi advised the commission to adopt the practice in civilised societies where arrests were not effected until after investigation was concluded.
He said where arrest and detention was necessary, they must be effected in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

Agbele had through his lawyers, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and  Olalekan Ojo, applied to the court to enforce his fundamental human rights.

Justice Adeniyi, who faulted EFCC’s continued detention of Agbele since July 1 this year when he was brought from Lagos to Abuja, granted him bail, ordered his release and directed the EFCC to return all his seized property if EFCC was unable to charge him to court within 21 days.

The judge granted Agbele bail at N50million and one surety, who must either be a responsible Nigerian with verifiable means of livelihood or a director in either federal agency or an agency of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).

The surety, the judge said, must own a property in Abuja and must possess evidence of tax payment for the last three years.

Adeniyi also awarded N5million compensation to Agbele, to be paid by the EFCC for his unlawful detention.
Justice Adeniyi  noted that the EFCC had detained the applicant in its custody in Abuja since July 1 till date, without taking him before a court, as required under sub-sections 4 and 5 of Section 35 of the Constitution.

He faulted the reasons given by the EFCC to justify it’s continued detention of the applicant to the effect that the remand order obtained by the EFCC from a Magistrate Court in Ogba, Lagos on June 30 cannot cover his detention in Abuja.

The judge also faulted EFCC’s claim that the applicant was still in its custody because he was unable to meet the conditions of the administrative bail it granted him.

Justice Adeniyi noted that EFCC’s decision to obtain a fresh remand order from a Magistrate Court in Abuja on July 13, and its objection to the applicant’s bail application were contrary its claim to have granted bail to the applicant.

The judge faulted the remand order obtained by the EFCC on July 13 in Abuja on the ground that it was obtained after Agbele had filed his suit on July 11, which was served on the EFCC on July 12.
He said the order was granted by the Magistrate under a wrong impression and that the EFCC acted in bad faith with the sole intention of foisting a state of helplessness on the court.

The judge was of the view that the right to personal liberty granted to every Nigerian citizen under Section 35(1) of the Constitution could only be curtail only in the six circumstances provided in paragraphs A to F of Section 35(1) of the Constitution.
He noted that the circumstance that is applicable to the Agbele case is that provided in Sub-section 1(c) of the Constitution.