•Orders removal of declaration from websiteA High Court sitting in Abuja has quashed the declaration of Executive Vice Chairman of Aiteo, Benedict Peters, as ‘wanted’ by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).In a March 22, 2017 judgement, the court said the anti-graft agency had no power to declare Peters or anyone ‘wanted’ without a court order.This was in response to a suit by Peters, accusing the EFCC of declaring him wanted on its website without following due process.
As affirmed by the court, “Peters has never been charged with, nor tried for any criminal offence in any Court, nor has he ever jumped bail for any offence howsoever in Nigeria and so cannot be declared wanted by administrative fiat, without any prior order or leave of Court.”The judgment by Justice Othman Musa said: “The very act of declaring the Applicant (Benedict Peters) wanted on the official website of the first Respondent (EFCC) without any prior order or leave of a Court of competent jurisdiction to that effect is unlawful, illegal, wrongful, ultra vires, unconstitutional and constitutes a flagrant violation of the Fundamental rights of the applicant to personal liberty, private and family life, freedom of movement and right to not be subjected to inhuman treatment and degrading treatment as guaranteed under Section 34, 37, 41 and 46 of the 1999 Constitution (As amended) and Articles 2, 3(1) and (2), 4, 5, 6, 7, and 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004.”On August 15 2016, Peters was declared wanted by EFCC without an order of Court and in the absence of a valid charge in a Court of law. The said declaration was published in some newspapers, online medium, and EFCC’s official website.EFFC said Peters was summoned on severally before he was declared wanted. However, evidence presented in court showed that Peters was out of the country on health grounds and this was communicated to EFCC by his legal representatives and so he requested for a rescheduling.But a day before his court appearance, armed men and policemen, at the behest of EFCC, invaded his company premises and arrested some people.EFCC’s claimed it acted based on an arrest warrant issued by a Magistrate Court.
After scrutinising the contents of the document constituting the warrant, the Judge discovered that the document was dated August 5 2016, suggesting that it was made or signed by the issuing Magistrate on that date. But, curiously, EFCC endorsed it as having been received on August 4, 2016, at 10.32am.This inconsistency flawed EFCC’s defence and Justice Othman Musa said:“I am left with no option but to conclude that the first respondent (EFCC) has presented to this Court an absurd and unimaginable case of receiving a signed document a day before it was actually signed. I am afraid such a thing is not possible in our physical world. Perhaps, it is possible in the spirit world. This renders the circumstances surrounding the procurement of this document doubtful.“Since EFCC’s declaration was not within the ambit of the laws, and did not comply with the conditions precedent to the said declaration, the court dismissed the case thus:-An order is hereby made directing the first respondent (EFCC) to remove from its website the purported declaration made against the applicant forthwith.”Source: The Nation