The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has dismissed a fundamental human rights enforcement action brought against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by a purported importer of cars, Olalekan Olakehinde, seeking N500 million in damages, after the EFCC seized 17 vehicles believed to be proceeds of illicit activities.
The said vehicles had been traced to Liman Kantigi, a former Commissioner for Local Government in Niger State, who is also a former governorship aspirant. They were suspected to be illegally acquired. About N6 billion was also traced to him, which he could not account for. While Kantigi is yet to honor the invitation of the EFCC, the anti-graft agency has already secured an interim forfeiture order of the account where the money is kept.
Like Kantigi, Olakehinde has also willfully refused to honor invitations by the EFCC. Instead, he instituted the fundamental human right enforcement action against the EFCC. Investigations had revealed that, in spite of his claim to being the Chairman of AY Emirate Motors Limited, he was in fact, a front for Kantigi.
Olakehinde had through his counsel, Aliyu Umar, SAN, approached the court, with a 23 paragraph affidavit, dated June 13, 2017 with seven prayers. Specifically, he urged the court to “award damages against the EFCC in the sum of N500 million”, and asked for “an order or perpetual injunction” against the Commission.
Aliyu Bokani, counsel for the EFCC, filed a 227 paragraph counter-affidavit in opposition to the applicant’s motion on notice, arguing that Olakehinde benefited from illegal activities and suspicious transactions, running into millions of naira, which prompted an investigation of his business dealings.
“The said AY Emirate Motors Limited was registered in 2015, while the illicit transfer of over N80 million from a company linked to Kantigi was carried out in 2014 into Olakehinde’s personal account and not that of AY Emirate Motors,” Bokani said.
He further explained that:“Investigations revealed that the said money were transferred before the incorporation of AY Emirate Motors Limited.”
Justice Halilu Yusuf, a vacation judge, who presided over the matter, in his judgment, of September 8, 2017 dismissed the suit in its entirety noting that “Olakehinde instituted the suit so that he will not honor the invitation.”
Dissatisfied, Olakehinde proceeded to the court of appeal seeking among other things “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondent from searching and/or carting away the applicant’s personal property without due process of law stipulated by the constitution and other enabling statutes.
The appellant also sought an order of the court to the effect that he was entitled to own personal property and conduct his legitimate business across the length and breadth of Nigeria under the provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
In response, Bokani distilled a lone issue for determination asking the appellate court to determine “Whether the trial court was wrong in arriving at the decision being appealed against”.
In his brief of argument, the EFCC counsel contended that, “There is no right of applicant known to law breached here worthy of any judicial injunction by way of order”.
He urged the court to dismiss the appeal and avoid being used in clipping the wings of the EFCC unnecessarily.
In its well considered judgment, a panel of three justices of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Ahmad O. Belgore on December 7, 2017 held that “the appellant did not establish and has not proven any case of contravention of his fundamental human right before the lower court”.
“There is no merit in this appeal, and it is hereby dismissed,” the court ruled.