Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday fixed March 2 for hearing in a suit by human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), seeking to vacate the order freezing his firm’s account.
The judged ordered that a hearing notice be issued to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He had on February 7 ordered a temporary forfeiture of N75million found in the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) account following an application by the EFCC.
When the case came up yesterday, EFCC was not represented.
Ozekhome said his suit was filed on February 14 and that EFCC was served on February 20, according to the proof of service.
Justice Anka said the commission was still within time to respond.
“They’re entitled to seven days. Their time has not lapsed. Let’s give them their time. So we’ll give them seven days,” he said.
Ozekhome asked for the earliest date for hearing “because of the urgency of the case.”
Ozekhome is praying for an order discharging and/or vacating forthwith, the interim ex-parte order of forfeiture to freeze or attach the money for 120 days.
Ozekhome said EFCC did not disclose to Justice Anka the fact that Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti had defrozen Fayose’s account, thereby allowing the governor to operate it, before he transferred N75 million to Ozekhome’s Chambers’ account.
Ozekhome said as at the time Fayose transferred N75million to his chambers account, there was no court processes filed or served on the applicant, indicating that the EFCC was on appeal, or asking the court to stay the execution of the order defreezing Fayose’s account.
Ozekhome said the rules regulating ex-parte applications were blatantly violated by the EFCC in obtaining the order, adding that the application was brought because of his “strong and uncompromising stance against some of the obnoxious anti-masses policies of the present administration and the judicial victories he has so far secured against the EFCC in different courts in Nigeria.”
The SAN sought an order restraining the federal government and the EFCC, whether by themselves or their agents from dealing in anyway and manner with his operation or his proprietary rights to the account.
Ozekhome said EFCC’s application was filed in bad faith, adding that the commission did not comply with statutory and judicial authorities in obtaining an interim order vide motion ex-parte.
According to him, the action is unconstitutional as same offends sections 36, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution as there was no legal justification for EFCC’s action.
“The applicant’s family, staff, dependants, associates, business and livelihood will greatly suffer, and are already suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable damage if this application is not granted, and the blockade or freezing of the account lifted immediately.
“The interest of justice demands that these prayers be granted as it will ensure that the applicant and his family, staff, associates, livelihood, dependants and business do not suffer untold and irreparable damages,” Ozekhome said.
Ozekhome said the N75million was part-payment of legal fees from Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayode.
“The issue of whether or not the funds in Fayose’s account from which the N75 million was posted to Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers GTBank account is suspected proceed of crime is currently on appeal as filed and entered by the self same Counsel to the respondent herein, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa,” Ozekhome said.
Justice Anka adjourned till March 2.