The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday asked Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court to strike out a fundamental rights suit brought by Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director, GMD, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, against the Commission for lack of jurisdiction.
Operatives of the EFCC had on February 3 stormed a building belonging to the former NNPC boss and recovered a staggering sum of $9,772,000 (Nine Million, Seven Hundred and Seventy Two Thousand United States Dollars) and £74,000 (Seventy Four Thousand Pound Sterling) stashed in a huge fire proof safe following which he reported to the Commission’s Kano Zonal Office on February 8, 2017 and admitted being the owner of both the house and the money recovered.
In a dramatic turn, Mr. Yakubu, in a suit filed through his counsel, Ahmed Raji, is challenging his detention since February 8 and demanding the enforcement of his right to dignity of person, personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of movement, private and family life and to acquire own property.
Aside praying the court to shield him from further investigation by the EFCC, he is also demanding N1 billion as cost against EFCC and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, who is the second respondent, for the violation of his aforementioned rights.
Mr. Raji, while adopting his written address, urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought by the applicant (Mr. Yakubu). He stated that “the sum total of the relief sought by the respondent is the release of the Applicant/Respondent as the investigation is still going on”.
Though, Mr. Raji admitted that the EFCC can investigate anybody, he, however, said such should not be an excuse for unwarranted detention especially in a situation where at the end of trial the person may not go to jail.
Mr. Raji also told the court that he was not aware of Exhibit EFCC 4 (order from Magistrate Court in Kano), adding that the Applicant/Respondent has not been brought to the court or any court of law.
He submitted that “the exhibit is irregular and constitute a gross abuse of the proceedings of this court”.
In his preliminary objection, Johnson Ojogbane, counsel to EFCC, told the court that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.
He argued that “all the facts relevant to the Applicant/Respondent’s application took place in Kano State which is outside the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court Abuja”.
“It is not in doubt that, the acts leading to this action filed by the Applicant/Respondent all occurred in Kano. He was never invited to the commission’s head office in Abuja and never came to Abuja in respect of the instant case. In view of this, the Federal High Court lacks territorial jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter as the court must have both subject matter and territorial jurisdiction to entertain a case,” Mr. Ojogbane argued.
On the Applicant’s prayer for human rights enforcement, Mr. Ojogbane argued that “the application is incompetent, incurably defective and therefore robs this honourable court of the jurisdiction to determine the suit.”
He went on to add that the detention warrant that authorised the detention of the applicant/respondent was obtained in Kano State as the EFCC is investigating the allegations levelled against the former NNPC boss.
On the other hand, the AGF, represented by T. A. Gazali brought an application asking the court for more time to regularise its processes that was filed out of time.
Justice Mohammed has adjourned to March 14 for further hearing.