The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has urged the Federal High Court, Lagos, to dismiss a fundamental rights suit filed against it by Aiteo Energy Resources Limited and its directors.
The anti-graft agency is accusing Aiteo Energy Resources Limited and its directors of stealing $300million in connivance with former Petroleum Minister, Mrs.Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The suit was heard yesterday, and adjourned till September 27, for judgment.
Aiteo Energy Resources Limited, an oil and gas operator had dragged EFCC, one of its investigators, Iliyasu Kwabi and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) demanding the sum of N10 billion, as general damages.
The other applicants in the suit are: Aiteo’s Executive Director, Tunde Akinpelu, Managing Director Ewariezi Useh, and and its in-house lawyer, Oladele Awonuga.
The applicants through their lawyers, Chief Wole Olanipekun, and Chief Mike Ozekhome both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), have prayed the court to hold that EFCC’s invasion of their business premises and their alleged arrest and torture violated rights to personal liberties and human dignity.
They claimed that EFCC officials allegedly subjected them to inhuman treatment for over five hours on June 1, 2016 at their 5/7 Dockyard Road, Apapa, Lagos office.
The applicants said it was in a bid to arrest their Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Benedict Peters, over an issue he was not privy to.
They urged Justice Oluremi Oguntoyibo to declare the alleged invasion unlawful, and to hold that their intimidation and harassment by EFCC was unconstitutional.
According to them, the respondents “brute use of physical force, viet armis, assault, detention and threats of more physical abuse on the applicants for purposes of harassment, intimidation and armtwisting under the guise of procuring the arrest of Mr Peters amounts to resort to self-help…and subversion of the rule of law…”
The applicants prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further disrupting their business and further arresting, detaining and harassing them.
Olanipekun and Ozehome (SANs) argued that the applicants did not commit any offence to warrant the alleged invasion and disruption of their business activities by the EFCC.
Besides, they said criminal liability was personal and not various, and is subject to proof beyond reasonable doubt, even as the applicants cannot be punished for an offence purportedly committed by another.
But, the EFCC, through its counsel Anselem Ozioko, urged the court to dismiss the suit, adding it was a ploy to stop the Commission’s investigation of Peters.
EFCC in its counter-affidavit deposed to by one Kwarbi, a member of EFCC Special Task Force on the Recovery of Stolen Public Assets, said the Commission received an intelligence report in 2016 over allegations of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering involving former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, Peters and Aiteo Energuy.
The investigator said EFCC found that Mrs Madueke, Bernard Otti, Peters, Aiteo Energy, Northern Belt Oil and Gas Ltd and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) officials allegedly stole $300million.
Kwarbi said EFCC wrote Peters to assist in the investigation, but that he “was not willing and ready to honour the invitation”. Adding that Peters was not on medical vacation overseas as he claimed but was “merely trying to avoid investigation”.
EFCC said it obtained a warrant for Peters arrest and that its men were civil and courteous when they went to his office to “check on” him, adding that the officers were not armed nor did they brutalise or arrest anyone.
“The first respondent’s officers did not storm the first applicant’s premises in a commando-like manner of locked the gate or blocked the entry and exit gates for three hours as alleged,” the commission said.
EFCC also denied liability for any damages, adding that the applicants “did not suffer any mental or psychological trauma as alleged or at all.”
“The applicants are using this suit as a decoy to frustrate the investigation of Benedict Peters by the first respondent,” EFCC said.
Justice Oguntoyibo, after listening to the submissions of both parties adjourned till September 27, for judgment on the suit.
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