Court Awards N50m Damages Against EFCC for Unlawful Detention of Businessman

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A federal high court in Abuja has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to pay Babatunde Morakinyo, a businessman, for unlawful arrest and detention.

On March 19, 2020, the EFCC had arraigned Morakinyo on a 23-count charge for money laundering before Ahmed Mohammed, a judge.

Mohammed had admitted the businessman to bail in the sum of N200 million with two sureties. One of the sureties, the judge insisted, must own a landed property in Abuja worth the bail bond.

Upon perfecting his bail conditions, the judge endorsed the order for his release.

However, officials of the EFCC re-arrested Morakinyo in court and detained him from March 19, 2020, until April 4, 2020, claiming he is to face another trial before a Lagos high court.

Aggrieved, Morakinyo filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit to challenge his arrest in court and detention between March 19 and April 4, 2020, at the EFCC’s facility in Jabi, Abuja.

Delivering ruling on Monday, Inyang Ekwo, the judge, faulted the actions of the anti-graft commission.

The judge awarded N50 million in exemplary damages against the commission “for abusing its statutory powers and arbitrarily trampling on the fundamental rights of the applicant”.

The judge also ordered the EFCC to issue a public apology to the appellant published in two national dailies “within 14 days of the grant of this order and notify the applicant accordingly”.

“The act is an aberration of the tenets of the democracy we profess to practise. In a democracy, no arm of government is to be made to appear as subjugated to the other,” Ekwo held.

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“Unconstitutional and illegal courthouse arrest is condemnable and punishable. And the courthouse arrest of the applicant by the respondent is no less so,” he said.

“Where the court has granted bail to a person and the person has met the terms of bail, and release warrant has been issued to him, but he is facing arraignment in another court, he needs not be re-arrested.

“He can be served the subsequent charge and given the opportunity to appear in court on the date fixed for his arraignment.

“The assumption that such a person is likely not to appear in court for the other trial is unfounded as his particulars of bail are in the custody of the court already.

“The court, which he is appearing next, has the discretion to grant him bail upon the previous terms or modify same. He is aware that it is in his interest to appear in court to answer to the allegations against him.

“Therefore, there is no valid foundation for the subsequent arrest of the applicant on the excuse of a pending charge in Lagos, when he had been granted bail by a court of coordinate jurisdiction in Abuja upon arraignment for another charge.”

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