- The Federal High Court proceeded in Abuja on the case of Senator Abdulaziz Nyako representing Adamawa state
- They ordered EFCC to pay the senator for unlawful freezing of his account
- The court also held that by declaring the applicant wanted without evidence of crime amounted to a breach to his fundamental human rights.
The Federal High Court on Wednesday, June 22, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to pay the sum of N12.5 million being exemplary damages in favour of Senator Abdulaziz Nyako for unlawful freezing of his account and illegal detention.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole who made the order while delivering judgment in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, held that the applicant, Senator Nyako, son of former Governor of Adamawa State, was detained in the custody of the commission in excess of the period prescribed by law.
He berated the anti-graft agency over what he described as "reckless tampering with the rights of citizens in the name of discharging it's statutory duties."
The court also held that by declaring the applicant wanted without evidence of crime amounted to a breach to his fundamental human rights.
Justice Kolawole accused the Commission of embarking on a judicial fiat which is unpardonable exhibition of ignorance of the law as the National Assembly never intended to give it the powers of an accuser and a judge.
"The reckless tampering with the rights of citizens in the name of carrying out statutory duties is an act to subvert not only the letters, but the spirit of the constitution," he said.
Justice Kolawole further held that the EFCC acted illegally beyond their powers to have frozen his personal account for two years (July without a valid court order.
"The action of the respondent (EFCC) amounted to usurping the powers of court by entering a final determination of quilt on the applicant," he said.
He said the prove of quilt can only be undertaken by courts of competent jurisdiction and not by any agency including the EFCC.
"It is only after a conviction that the court can make a final order of forfeiture as the rights of suspects are not determined by exparte application without hearing from them.
"The constitution has not allowed any agency to have the capacity to act on its own whims and caprices without subjecting their actions before the court of law for a review," he said.
Justice Kolawole said the National Assembly cannot therefore empower any agency or statutory body to act in defiance to the constitution.
"In the instant case, the applicant was in the custody of the respondent between February 12 to 17, 2016 and released on the February 17 without being charged to court. No matter the date, the question is has there been a violation of his right?
"I hold that there was an infringement of his fundamental human rights because he was detained for three days in excess of the period prescribed by law," he said.
"I hold that the EFCC acted with a guilty knowledge just to injure the applicant's status and pride as son of a former governor."
Justice Kolawole held that the EFCC acted against sections 28 and 29 of its Act by freezing the personal account of the applicant for two years without obtaining from the court, an interim order of attachments or forfeiture.
On the issue as to whether his arrest was illegal, the court held that the EFCC acted within its powers under section 7 of its Act.
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Justice Kolawole said the applicant was arrested based on a petition dated October 10, 2011 by one Alhaji Sahid Umar over alleged mismanagement of funds belonging to the Adamawa state.
The court also frowned at what it described as "recent trend" where remand orders are obtained from Magistrate courts which have no jurisdiction on the alleged offences, by government agencies to keep an accused into custody beyond the constitutional period adding that such actions amount to abuse of court process.
"I direct the affected agencies to take their exparte remand orders to the High Courts that have jurisdiction over the alleged offences as doing otherwise will bring the judiciary into disrepute with the public."
Earlier, the former governor of Adamawa state, Murtala Nyako, granted N350 million bail to Nyako, his son, Abdul-Aziz Nyako, and two other accused, Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba who were prosecuted along with the ex-governor for about N29 billion fraud charges,
Nyako was impeached as Adamawa state governor by the state House of Assembly on July 15, 2014. Nyako’s impeachment on July 17, 2014, put Adamawa state into political crisis, which has been resolved when Bala Ngilari, the Deputy to the removed governor, assumed the office.