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Surety's Account Freezing: Court Awards N5m Punitive Cost, N30,000.00 Against EFCC

Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu


IKOYI, LAGOS STATE, NIGERIA - A punitive cost to the tune of N5 million has been awarded against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the freezing of the bank account of one Charles Aiyeyi since December 2018.

The punitive cost was awarded against the anti-graft agency by a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, presided over by Justice Nicholas Oweibo.

It would be recalled that Charles Aiyeyi had stood as a surety for one Chief Jerome Itepu, who was being investigated by the Commission.

Justice Nicholas Oweibo had declared that after the anti-graft agency released Chief Jerome Itepu to Charles Aiyeyi on administrative bail, Chief Jerome Itepu jumped the bail and refused to honour further invitations by the EFCC.

Even in December 2018, the Commission had placed a restriction on Charles Aiyeyi's bank account.

However, when Charles Aiyeyi approached the EFCC to query the freezing of his bank account, he was arrested and detained for 12 days, but was later released on bail.

Charles Aiyeyi then through his counsel, J.A.K. Akhigbe, headed to the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.

Charles Aiyeyi prayed Justice Nicholas Oweibo to hold that his detention and the freezing of his bank account amounted to a breach of his fundamental rights under sections 34, 35 and 44 of the Constitution.

Charles Aiyeyi equally asked Justice Nicholas Oweibo to award N500m as exemplary and aggravated damages against the EFCC.

In opposition, the Commission posited that it froze Charles Aiyeyi's bank account because it traced part of proceeds of crime into it.

The EFCC also added that it had charged Charles Aiyeyi with the offence of justice obstruction over Chief Jerome Itepu's disappearance.

In his judgment, Justice Nicholas Oweibo held that, “The arrest and detention of the applicant because he could not produce a suspect he stood surety for is not a crime known to law.

“The only liability for the applicant for failure to produce the suspect is to show cause or forfeit the sum of N18m bail bond.

“The non-production of any valid court order authorising the freezing of the applicant’s bank account makes it unlawful and unconstitutional.

“Taking into account the status of the applicant, the time it took the applicant to prosecute the case including the effect of the freezing of the account on his family, the court awarded the sum of N5m as compensation in favour of the applicant in the case.

“The Cost of N30,000 is also awarded in favour of the applicant against the respondent.”

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