Crime

Court awards N5m against EFCC for freezing surety’s account

The Federal High Court in Lagos has awarded a punitive cost of N5 million against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for freezing the bank account of one Mr Charles Aiyeyi since December 2018.

Aiyeyi had stood as a surety for one Chief Jerome Itepu, who was being investigated by the EFCC.

According to the court, after the EFCC released Itepu to Aiyeyi on administrative bail, the suspect jumped the bail and refused to honour further invitations by the EFCC.

In December 2018, the EFCC placed a restriction on Aiyeyi’s account. When the surety went to the EFCC office to ask questions, he was arrested and detained for 12 days. He was later released on bail.

The surety, through his lawyer, Mr J.A.K. Akhigbe, approached the Federal High Court in Lagos for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.

He urged the court to declare 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.

He urged the court to award N500m as exemplary and aggravated damages against the EFCC.

But the EFCC filed a counter-affidavit in opposition to the suit.

The anti-graft agency said it froze Aiyeyi’s account because it traced part of proceeds of crime into it, adding that it had charged the surety with the offence of justice obstruction over Itepu’s disappearance.

But the court, in a judgment by Justice Nicholas Oweibo, faulted Aiyeyi’s arrest and the freezing of his account.

The judge held, “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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