Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The Appeal Court sitting in Ado Ekiti TuesdayÂ dismissed an interlocutory application brought before it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking toÂ restrain the Zenith Bank Plc. from allowingÂ Governor Ayodele Fayoseâ€™s access to hisÂ accounts domiciled in the bank.
The account was June last year frozen over allegation that it contained the sum of N2.999 billion out of the $3.2 billion suspected to have been distributed through the office of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Bello Dasuki (rtd).
The EFCC is also requesting a stay of execution of the judgment of the lower court. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti had last year December 13 unfrozenÂ Fayoseâ€™s domiciliary accounts in the bank at Ado Ekiti branch, leading to the withdrawal of the sum of N5 million from the same accounts by the governor shortly after the judgment.
Consequent upon this, the EFCC had filed an appeal against the judgment and prayed the courtÂ to freeze the accountÂ on the grounds that the money was a proceed of crime andÂ pending the dispensation of justice on the matter to prove Fayoseâ€™s innocence
Delivering his judgment, the Appeal Court panel comprising Justices Ahmed Belgore, Fatima Akinbami and Paul Elechi, in a unanimous verdict dismissed the application.
The judgment read by Justice Akinbami said: â€œNo valid appeal has been made against the judgment of the lower courtÂ which unfroze the account. Again,Â the judgment the EFCC was appealing against was not attached to this application
â€œEFCC also failed to show sufficient evidence that the money in the account was a proceed of crime as claimed. In doing this, we expect
the EFCC to have showed evidence that the plaintiff has been tried for criminal offence before for it to assume that he can receive proceed of crime
â€œWe also found that there was suppression of facts to get the account frozen in the first instance.Â It was also noted that Fayose in line with Section 308 enjoys immunity and his personal account canâ€™t be frozen.
â€œHaving not done all these as demanded by law and equity, as those facts were facts that would assist in exercising the courtâ€™s discretion either for or against as it is an applicationÂ that is predicated on discretion of the court, the application is hereby thrown out.â€
Reacting to the judgment, Fayoseâ€™s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN),Â described the judgment as landmark and conveyed a clear message that the EFCC is gradually becoming a lawless organisation.
Ozekhome said the anti-graft agency would continue to lose casesÂ it filed against suspects in courts until it divorces itself of selective justiceÂ and taking biased positionÂ in the politics of the country.