The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, dismissed the suit filed by Festus Keyamo, a former minister of state for Labour and Productivity, against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the last presidential election, Atiku Abubakar.
Mr Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had sought Atiku’s arrest and prosecution by Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies for alleged corruption.
The former minister, who served as a spokesperson for the presidential campaign organisation of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had filed the suit in the build-up to the 25 February election.
But the judge, James Omotosho, dismissed the suit at the preliminary stage for being frivolous, and awarded a total of N10 million against Mr Keyamo on Monday.
The judge ordered Mr Keyamo to pay N5 million to each of Atiku and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
The court also added a 10 per cent interest rate per annum until full liquidation of same.
The judge dismissed Mr Keyamo’ suit after upholding the preliminary objection filed against the suit by Atiku’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, also a SAN, and ICPC’s lawyer, Oluwakemi Odogun.
He ruled that the suit was frivolous, vexatious and constituted an abuse of court process.
Mr Keyamo had in the suit through his counsel, Festus Ukpe, sought an order of the court to compel the Code Of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and ICPC to invite or arrest Atiku, Nigeria’s former vice president.
He asked the court to order the agencies to investigate and prosecute Atiku based on the claims contained in an affidavit deposed to by one Michael Achimugu, alleging that Atiku used a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to corruptly enrich himself while he was Vice President of Nigeria.
In response to the suit, Atiku, through his counsel Mr Ozekhome, raised a preliminary objection to the suit, contending that Mr Keyamo lacked the basis to institute the said suit, having failed to disclose what he suffered over and beyond other members of the public.
Mr Ozekhome further contended in his written brief that Mr Keyamo did not disclose any wrong done to him by Atiku or what damage he had suffered. He described the former minister as a busybody and meddlesome interloper, as the entire suit disclosed no reasonable cause of action whatsoever.
Arguing the matter before the judge, Benson Igbanoi, a lawyer from Mr Ozekhome’s law firm, also argued that the suit constituted a gross abuse of office, the plaintiff being a public officer occupying a public office and using public funds to file and prosecute same.
He further contended that the suit was instituted in bad faith; frivolous; vexatious and therefore a waste of judicial time.
Mr Omotosho, in his judgement, agreed with Mr Ozekhome that Mr Keyamo lacked the ‘locus standi’ to institute the suit, having failed to establish any special interest over and beyond other members of the public, or show any damage suffered by him.
The court went further to hold that Mr Keyamo’s letter to the CCB, ICPC, and EFCC (2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants, respectively in the suit) in which he gave them an ultimatum of 72 hours to arrest, investigate and prosecute Atiku, was done in bad faith, as the agencies were not in any way his errand boys.
The judge queried if 72 hours were ever sufficient to investigate and commence the prosecution.
Therefore, the court ruled that the action of the plaintiff in rushing to file the suit was a move done in bad faith, more so coming from a lawyer of his standing.
The court also frowned on the unconscionable manner the plaintiff behaved as public institutions must be regarded and protected.
The judge commended the EFCC and ICPC for showing restraint and not allowing themselves to take orders from Keyamo (the plaintiff) as if they were his servants.
On 16 January, Mr Keyamo issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the (CCB), the ICPC and the EFCC to arrest Atiku.
In a petition dated 16 January, the campaign spokesperson asked the anti-graft agencies to arrest Atiku on offences of money laundering, breach of the code of conduct for public officers, conspiracy, and criminal breach of trust and misappropriation.
At the end of the expiration of the ultimatum, the minister filed his suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order compelling the security agencies to arrest Atiku.
Mr Keyamo premised his suit on the allegations made by Michael Achimugu, who claimed to be a former aide to Atiku.
Mr Achimugu, in a series of social media posts, accused Atiku of using Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to commit financial fraud.
According to Mr Keyamo, Mr Achimugu’s outburst provides substantial evidence to corroborate his allegations against the PDP presidential candidate and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr Keyamo recently made headlines with his farewell speech during the valedictory session of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Executive Council (FEC), describing the establishment of the Minister of State, a designation he held for about four years, as unconstitutional.
Many had criticised him for filing the suit against Atiku in the middle of campaigns for the February 2023 poll. The suit by a top administration figure was perceived as an attempt to unduly skew the field in the presidential race to the advantage of his party, the APC and its then candidate, Bola Tinubu.
Atiku and Peter Obi, who came second and third, respectively, are in court challenging Mr Tinubu’s victory in the poll.
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