By Davidson Iriekpen
A Federal High Court Lagos in yesterday struck out an application by a senior lawyer, Godwin Obla (SAN), seeking the enforcement of his rights against alleged unlawful detention.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred a 30-count charge against Obla and a judge of the Federal High Court, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.
The charges bordered on conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.
The commission had detained the duo in its custody, pending the conclusion of its investigations.
Obla had through his counsel, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) brought an application, praying the court to declare as unlawful, his continued detention in custody, as well as the seizure of his mobile phones.
Adedipe had argued that the action of the anti-graft agency, constituted an infringement on his client’s rights to personal liberty and ownership of property.
He had therefore, urged the court to issue an order, declaring Obla’s continued detention in custody as unlawful and a gross infringement on his rights.
In addition, Obla claims the sum of N1 billion against the EFCC as damages for the alleged infringement.
Delivering judgment yesterday, Justice Mohammed Idris held that fundamental right cannot in any way be construed as meaning an absolute right, since it can be curtailed.
He further held: “I cannot find my way clear in holding that the detention of the applicant is not in conformity with the provisions of the law.
“It is not in dispute that the mobile phone of the applicant was listed as one of the exhibits which the respondents intend to tender in the charge number LD/367/C/16.
“There is doubt that the relief sought does not have direct bearing with the case at the Lagos High Court, and so, this court should not make an order that will strike at the heart of the charge.
“This is a case in which the court should not make any such orders, as this court and the Lagos State high court are courts of concurrent jurisdiction.
“To make any order which will have effects on the pending charge, will be to lend a helping hand in causing confusion in our courts.
“In the circumstance, I cannot find my way clear in granting any of the reliefs sought.
“On the whole, I find that this application cannot succeed, and it is hereby struck out.”
Earlier In his submission on the application, Adedipe had urged the court to hold, that the continued detention of Obla, as well as the seizure of his mobile phones constituted an infringement on his rights.
He had told the court that the applicant, who was also a one-time prosecutor for the EFCC, was invited to the commission on Nov. 8 when he was unduly detained till date.
According to him, the phones of the applicant were also seized, contrary to constitutional provisions to own property.
He submitted that the detention of Obla from Nov. 8 till when the EFCC obtained a magisterial order for further detention, was a gross violation of his rights to personal liberty.
He had urged the court to so hold.
In response, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had urged the court to dismiss the applicant’s processes for lack of merit.
Oyedepo had argued that the steps taken by the EFCC were allowed by law in the dispensation of its duties.
According to him, intelligence report showed that the applicant had a company known as Obla & Co Ltd, from which a sum of N5 million was transferred to Justice Ajumogobia via a company known as Nigel & Colive Ltd.
He said that also following intelligence reports, Ajumogobia was discovered to be sole signatory to Nigel & Colive Ltd.
He said that the said sum of money was transferred to the judge, during the pendency of a case before her court with suit numbered FHC/L/CS/482/10.
He argued that the mere transfer of the said sum to the Judge during the pendency of a case before her clearly showed a mind set to unduly gratify.
He had urged the court to hold that there existed a reasonable cause for suspicion by the commission.