Alex Enumah in Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has again ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to refrain from arresting, intimidating or taken further steps that would infringed on the fundamental rights of oil magnate and Chief Executive Officer of Aiteo Group, Benedict Peters.
Justice Adegbola Adeniji, who ordered parties to maintain status co pending the determination of the main suit also restrained the anti-graft agency from interfering with three other companies and businesses linked to the businessman.
Peters, in a fundamental rights suit with number FCT/HC /CV0536/17 approached the court for protection over what he described as unlawful and fraudulent conspiracies designed by the defendants â€œto expropriate by intimidation, assets, properties, monies to which he is legitimately entitled.â€
While, Peters and his three companies, Colinwood Ltd, Rosewood Investments Ltd and Walworth Properties Limited, are plaintiffs in the suit, others sued alongside the EFCC include; Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service (UK) and individuals Helen Hughes, Stacey Boniface, and John Bavister.
The plaintiff claimed that his properties belonging exclusively to him were wrongfully included in a list of properties alleged to belong to Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Minister of Petroleum in Nigeria, and that despite abundant evidence showing he owned the properties, the defendants maliciously and deliberately continued to suppress the information with the intent not only to permanently deprive him of the properties but to destroy him as well as his business interest.
Consequently, the plaintiff applied for an order of interlocutory injunction, restraining the defendants from, among other matters, â€œinterfering/ continued interference with the properties of the plaintiffs either by way of criminal indictment, charge, interdiction, extradition or in any other manner infringing in the quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the said propertiesâ€, and â€œfrom interfering/continued interference with the person of the 1st Plaintiff, Benedict Peters, either by way of arrest, criminal indictment, charge, interdiction, extradition, or in any other manner infringing on his personal liberty and freedom of movement on the facts and circumstances of this case pending the final determination of this suit.â€
When the matter came up for hearing, the EFCC was neither present nor represented in the court. Counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, told the court that the purpose of the Plaintiffsâ€™ application was to ask the court to protect them from the prejudice and hardship that defendantsâ€™ continuing actions were causing them until the issues in the case were tried by the court.
But counsel to the AGF, A.T. Gazali, objected to hearing of the suit on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction. Gazali, told the court that Peters had instituted a number of other cases which covered the issues he was asking the court to decide upon.
Responding, Ozekhome, urged the court to disregard the position of the defendants which according to him, was based on the erroneous belief that the Plaintiffs were trying to set aside orders of the UK court when, clearly they were seeking declarations against the tortious acts of the defendants and damages as compensation.
He refuted the allegation that the plaintiffs had similar cases in various courts by asserting that the parties, subject matter and reliefs in the instant case were different from the others.
After listening to the arguments of both counsel, the court made an order enjoining parties to maintain the status quo, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion for Interlocutory Injunction filed by Benedict Peters and the three companies.
Justice Adeniji consequently adjourned ruling on the Interlocutory injunction to a date to be communicated to parties.