The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday said its attention has been drawn to media reports accusing its chairman, Ibrahim Magu of refusing to obey an order in the fundamental right enforcement action brought against the Commission by an Austrian businessman, Wolfgang Reinl, who is being investigated for his role in the $2.1 billion arms deal scandal.
Wilson Uwujaren, Head, Media and Publicity, in a statement said contrary to the insinuations, there was no disobedience to any court order by the EFCC and Magu as the commission had since May 9, 2016 filed a notice of appeal at the appellate court challenging the April 20, 2016 ruling by Justice Peter Affen of the Federal Capital Territory High Court.
He said: “The appeal thus nullifies any claim of contempt. It is trite law that judgement cannot be enforced in the face of an appeal.
“In the Nigerian legal system, an appellant has 90 days to appeal a judgement it deems inappropriate and wrong. That window is still open to the EFCC.”
The contempt charge seeking to commit Magu to prison is contained on Form 49 of the Abuja High Court on the EFCC.
It reads in part: “Take notice that the applicant will apply to this court for an order for your committal to prison for having disobey the order of this court as made by honourable Justice Peter Affen of the FCT High Court in Abuja on April 20, 2016 requiring you to release forthwith the applicant international passport seized or confiscated in the wake of his arrest and detention and delist him from your watchlist or No-Fly list.
“And also for your failure to obey the order of the court requiring you to pay the applicant the sum of N10m as compensatory damages for the violation of his fundamental rights to dignity of human person and personal liberty.”
Among others, Justice Affen has ordered EFCC to immediately release the international passport, cheque books, cell-phones and other properties of the foreign businessman unlawful confiscated from him since December 2015 when his Abuja house was illegally invaded and ransacked by the operatives of the anti-graft agency.
The judge also ordered EFCC to pay the security expert a sum of N10m as compensatory damages for his unlawful detention from December 28, 2015 to February 5, 2016, a period of over five weeks.
The court also barred the EFCC from arresting, re-arresting, detaining or embarking on further seizure of the international passport of the plaintiff who is an Austrian Security consultant.
The court held that the detention of the plaintiff at the EFCC custody in Abuja for over a month was unlawful, unconstitutional and constituted a gross violation of the plaintiff fundamental right to dignity as enshrined in Section 34 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution.
EFCC’s refusal to comply with the judgement prompted the applicant, through his lawyer, Mr. Mazi Afam Osigwe to file the contempt charge against Magu.
Mainwhile,the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has recovered the sum of $3.1billion, which is over N600 billion, in less than six months, the chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Financial Crimes, Hon. Kayode Oladele, has said.
The lawmaker, who spoke to select journalists in Abuja yesterday, also noted that the public need to understand that not all recovered property, cash or any other asset by the anti-graft agency are immediately forfeited to the government’s coffers as they remain exhibits until when a judicial pronouncement is made by the court.
Oladele pointed out that the often questioning of the agency’s modus operandi by politicians was just to cast aspersions on the integrity of the EFCC in its effort to rid the country of corruption.
“People just bring up questions to discredit and to reduce the credibility of the agency. So far, with an agency collecting $3.1 billion in less than six months, people should really give them a lot of accolades,” he said.
On the status of the recovered monies by the EFCC, Oladele said “When you talk of money being remitted to the national treasury, it is something you have to look at very well in a different perspective because when you collect money and unless somebody voluntarily says ‘this money is stolen’ and he is really giving it up, any money collected by EFCC, unless there is voluntary admission of guilt, is still regarded as an exhibit for the purpose of conviction.”
“So, EFCC cannot just collect money and begin to pay into national treasury. What if at the end of the day the person from whose hand they collected the money is acquitted? Who will pay back the money?” he added.
Oladele, however, said the agency operates a Recovery Account where the recovered funds are deposited to yield compound interest, noting that an accused will get his money back with accumulated interest in the event he or she is not convicted.