- Category: GENERAL
- Published on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 09:05
- Written by Elombah.com
Unknown to most Nigerians, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been recording more loses and repudiations by the Nigerian courts, who have grown increasingly impatient with repeated EFCC abuses of the rights of the common man. On May 28, 2012, Justice Christopher
Balogun of Lagos High Court struck out the much touted theft case which the EFCC filed against the US-based lawyer, Emeka Ugwuonye, in Lagos.
Around the same time, in an unrelated case in the Abuja Capital Territory High Court, a judge so castigated the EFCC that he advised them to withdraw a criminal case they filed against an Abuja-based businessman before the next adjourned date.
Within the same period, three EFCC cases stand out and are subject of this report. These are the eight-count criminal charges the EFCC filed against Raphael Okpiaifo at the Kano State High Court, and the several count-charge the same EFCC filed against Adegboyega Adetunji in the Abuja Federal High Court and the fundament right enforcement suit that Adetunji filed against the EFCC in the Lagos State High Court. About two weeks ago, the Kano High Court struck out all the charges against Raphael and told the EFCC that the case should never have been filed. Also on April 24, 2012, the Abuja Federal High Court struck out the case filed against Adetunji. The court so castigated the EFCC that every Nigerian present felt ashamed. And today, June 11, 2012, the Lagos court, in respect of Adetunji’s fundamental rights enforcement suit, ruled against the EFCC. The court not only found that the EFCC had abused the rights of Adetunji, it also found that the court order that the EFCC had tendered to justify the detention of Adetunji was indeed ‘badly forged’ by the EFCC. The court therefore ordered EFCC to pay damages to Adetunji and to issue a public apology to him.
Raphael’s own fundamental right suit is in the making and he is being represented by Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire.
ADEGBOYEGA ADENTUNJI’S CASES:
In was turned out to be only an internal squabble by the EFCC top brass over how to share bribes collected from some former governors who were being investigated by the EFCC around August of last year, Mrs. Farida Waziri ordered the arrest and detention of one of the young lawyers employed in the legal department of the EFCC. The name of that young lawyer is Adegboyega Adetunji. He had worked for the EFCC for a period of three years. He is smart and had been an enthusiastic legal officer. But his conscience had constantly placed him in conflict with several senior EFCC officials. When he was arrested and detained in November of last year, it was not so much that he committed any offense as the fact that Mrs. Waziri wanted to use him to get at one senior officer that she believed Adetunji was loyal to. Apparently, Adetunji was detained right next to Emeka Ugwuonye’s cell and it is believed that the two men talked, and Adetunji, in his position in EFCC, had information that could be useful to Ugwuonye. How much of that information is now in the possession of Ugwuonye is not known.
After two weeks in Lagos cell, Adetunji was transferred to the EFCC cell in Abuja. That was after someone in the EFCC hierarchy felt it was too dangerous to keep anyone as knowledgeable of EFCC as Adetunji in the same cell as Emeka Ugwuonye.
Probably, based on advice of Emeka Ugwuonye, Adetunji moved quickly to enforce his fundamental rights by hiring a lawyer (actually, initially, Bamidele Atiru, the same lawyer representing Ugwuonye) to file a rights enforcement petition at the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja Division. (ID/945M/2011.Mr Adegboyega Adetunji v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission). This move changed the game plan for the EFCC officials. Their original plan was based on their assumption that Adetunji, as a staff, would not be aggressive in enforcing his rights and that he would rather wait until such a time that EFCC was done with their effort to break him mentally. They had not factored in the effects of allowing him to meet Emeka Ugwuonye in the cell. Once Adetunji filed his suit, EFCC, as expected, was forced to make the next moves by filing criminal charges against Adetunji (FHC/ABJ/CR/149/2011; Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Adegboyega Adetunji & Ors.). This move was to avoid the accusation that they detained him contrary to the constitution. This was precisely as both Ugwuonye had expected, and Adetunji understood it was going to be.
In the fundamental rights enforcement trial, the EFCC produced a court order (which has now been determined to be forged) and argued that they detained Adetunji pursuant to a lawful order of the court. Judge O. H. Oshodi of Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, delivered judgment on June 11, 2012, holding that Adetunji’s detention was illegal and unjustifiable. The court also ruled that there was a serious case of forgery in that EFCC “badly forged” a court order which they claimed to have obtained to detain him. The court awarded One Million Naira in damages against the EFCC and ordered the Commission to issue an apology to Adetunji.
The criminal case against Adetunji suffered a similar fate on April 24, 2012. EFCC lost at a preliminary stage the criminal case, as the court quashed all the counts and reprimanded the EFCC for abusing the process of the court. Judge G. O. Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja discharged Adetunji, striking out the case and lambasting the EFCC officials. Adetunji is to be reinstated in his position and paid past wages and benefits. (But he doesn’t want to return to the EFCC. He will be working with ECULAW). He will now explore ways to bring criminal indictment against the EFCC officers who forged a court order.
RAPHAEL OKPIAIFO’S CASE:
Raphael Okpiaifo is a citizen of Edo State. He was based in China for years. He married a Chinese lady and they had one child who was few months shy of two years when Raphael was detained in Nigeria. Raphael had a problem with a businessman from Kano, but the incident occurred in China. When Raphael visited Nigeria, the Kano businessman first used the Nigerian police to arrest Raphael. Raphael was in police custody (with the notorious and deadly SAS) for six months. For that entire period, his life was threatened each night when the police officers would take him to the back bushes of the Abattoir, which is the poignant metaphorical name for the place the SAS office is located in Abuja, and threaten to execute him by a firing squared. Raphael’s lawyer got a court order for the police to release Raphael. But the police refused. His lawyer went back to court and filed for contempt. The court again ordered that Raphael be released and awarded damages in the amount of Two Million Naira against the police. Instead of releasing Raphael, the police and the businessman conspired to get the EFCC involved so they could recycle the abuse through the EFCC process. One morning, the police came and told Raphael to pack his things and that he was going home. They simply took Raphael to the gate and handed him over to the EFCC. That was how the police again evaded the order of the court that Raphael be released.
The EFCC held Raphael for additional eight months in their Abuja cell. No charges were brought against him. No real investigation was going on. Instead, EFCC officers were pressuring Raphael to pay money and settle the businessman. It was clear there was no case against Raphael. Emeka Ugwuonye met Raphael when he got to the EFCC cell in Abuja on February 18, 2011. Raphael was very sick and he had come out to the entrance to fetch water for some herbs, which was all his family could get him for medicine, just as Ugwuonye was being processed to be placed in the cell. Ugwuonye described the encounter in the following words:
“It was a rather humiliating experience – you have illiterates and dirty police officers, most of whom have no idea of the world outside their villages and hamlets, yelling and barking orders at you. The irony of it all was that I was more conscious of the abusive treatment of Raphael by these little monsters than I was of their treatment of me, which was no different. When I settled down in my corner of the cell, I got to talk to Raphael. He told me his story. I saw him agonize over his life and the separation from his wife and son. Raphael was a regular type of guy you run into in the streets. He could pass unnoticed. He was not a Harvard trained lawyer, whose arrest and detention would make the news minutes after they occurred. He could be killed and no one would notice, except his family. And that was my fear about his vulnerability in the hands of the EFCC. I wanted to fill that gap and let the EFCC know that if anything were to happen to any of the men that I met in that cell, the world would know about it just as if it had happened to me.”
At some point, Raphael’s wife in China had given up all hopes that he would ever come out alive. According to Raphael, at some point, Ugwuonye forgot his own case and fought for Raphael’s. Ugwuonye constantly advised him on how to handle the interrogations and harassment.
When they got tired of keeping Raphael in Abuja, they transferred him to the EFCC cell in Kano, and charged him to the Kano High Court. Not even once did the EFCC try to obtain any court order to detain Raphael. Normally, one reason the EFCC charges a person to court after long period of unlawful detention in cases like this is to defeat the suspects possible civil right enforcement suit. When the EFCC charged Raphael at the Kano High Court, they knew the dispute between him and the businessman occurred in China. The EFCC knew that the Kano businessman had influence in Kano and might be able to buy the judges in Kano. And the EFCC officer who engineered this whole charade was also from Kano. So, between the two men, they could get their way with the Kano State High Court judges. Indeed, the businessman was regularly going to the prisons where Raphael was detained to threaten to kill him.
Raphael’s lawyer immediately applied for bail at the Kano High Court. As you can imagine, the judge denied bail on the basis that he would conduct expedited (i.e., speedy) trial. That was how Raphael stayed another one year and one week in Kano prison, waiting for the “speedy trial” that never took place. Last two weeks, the judge struck out the charges against Raphael and declared that there was no jurisdiction in Kano or anywhere in Nigeria over what allegedly happened in China. He also discharged Raphael. The EFCC officials knew there was no case all along. They only meant to punish Raphael by imprisoning him for two years just to please an influential friend who have paid them large sums of money.
At the moment, Raphael is in his family house in Benin City while receiving treatment and trying to repair what is left of his life after such an abuse. He will be represented by Emeka Ugwuonye and the team of lawyers he will lead for the pursuit of legal recourse for the violations of Raphael’s civil rights.
Back to Mr Ugwuonye's case, It was evident the case should never have been filed in Nigerian courts. The facts of the case alleged by the EFCC do not show that a crime was ever committed within Nigeria's teritorial jurisdicion. It was a blatant abuse of the court process and the rights of Mr. Ugwuonye.
Special Report - How And Why The Efcc Loses Its Cases -