By Harris Emanuel
An Uyo-based businessman, Ubong Williams has dragged the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Charles Ikpe of the Akwa Ibom State High Court for alleged infringement of his rights.
Besides, Williams, a consultant with the Akwa Ibom State Government also accused the EFCC, its Uyo Zonal Head, Edeh Uchenna, and an operative, Segun Richard of attempted extortion and violation of his fundamental rights.
In suit No: HC/FHR/197/2020, Mr. Williams had prayed the court to declare his arrest and detention on September 2, 2020, as a violation of his fundamental rights.
He also asked the court to declare that the harassment, intimidation, psychological torture and incessant invitations by the agency violated his rights as provided for in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The applicant further prayed the court to restrain the EFCC from further breaking into his home without lawful justification and also tender an unreserved apology to him for violating his fundamental rights and publish the same in a national newspaper.
In an affidavit deposed in court dated March 1, 2021, Mr. Williams said he received a WhatsApp message on February 4, 2020, from the registered GSM number of Mr. Richard, inviting him to the Uyo zonal office on February 5, 2020.
“I have printed out a copy of the said WhatsApp message and annexed the same to this affidavit and marked it as Exhibit UB.2.”
Mr. Williams argued that in response to Exhibit UB 2, the 3rd Respondent, Mr. Richard sent him a response, “insisting on my honouring their invitation. I have printed out a copy of this WhatsApp message and annexed the same hereto and I have marked it as Exhibit UB.3.”
The applicant went on to explain that Mr. Richard followed-up with numerous phone calls to him and insisted on a private meeting before the official office meeting and he eventually agreed to meet him on August 23, 2020 at Christmas Village, along Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo.
During the meeting, Mr. Williams said Mr. Richard came with another gentleman and introduced him as his colleague from the legal department.
The applicant added, “That the said 3rd Respondent (Mr. Richard) and his colleague made attempts to extract money from me but when same was not forthcoming and they got angry and promised to deal with me the following day, 24 August 2020 being the day they invited me to appear before the Respondent’s office.
“That due to that threat, I could not go to the office of the Respondent on that 24th August, 2020. That on 1 September, 2020, I was informed by my security man named Nsikak Udoh that at about 2:30pm, the said 3rd Respondent and his team invaded my house during working hours, when they knew that I will not be at home and forcefully gained access to my residential home.
“That, I was further informed under circumstances highlighted above by the said security man (Nsikak Udoh) that when he tried to stop them, the 3rd Respondent and his team cut the electric fence wire, jumped over the fence, broke the security doors and bundled him to their office on that September 1, 2020.”
When he learnt about the indignities done to his security man by the EFCC’s team led by Mr. Richard he sent him (Mr. Richard) a WhatsApp message on the same September 1, 2020, expressing his displeasure and linking the attack to his refusal to bribe them with money as they requested during the private meeting they had.
But in a written reply to the Motion on Notice filed by counsel to the applicant, Andem Andem, the counsel to the EFCC, Nwandu Ukoha, said Mr. Williams was being investigated based on his involvement in a petition received by the anti-graft agency.
In the document dated February 17, 2021, the counsel to the EFCC argued, “The applicant who was investigated by the respondent for involvement in a petition which the respondent received is asking the Court to remove from the respondents, their statutory rights to investigate allegations of offences, arrest and prosecute suspected offenders among other things to declare the actions of the respondent as illegal.
“The applicant is also asking the court to punish the respondents for conducting an investigation which arose as a result of the petition it received against the applicant.
“My Lord, by virtue of Section 34 (4)&(5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the spirit which guarantees the right of the suspect was strictly adhered in that the applicant within 24 hours during the pendency of the investigation.”
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Ukoha argued that Mr. Williams has failed to establish any violation of fundamental human right for which he has come to court for redress.
“We, therefore, with utmost humility, urge this honourable court to dismiss the case and hold that the applicants have not made out a case to entitle this honourable court to interfere with the statutory functions of the respondent to investigate the allegation of fraud reported in which the applicant was invited to offer clarification on his name which featured in the investigation, neither are there facts before the court to justify proceedings for the enforcement of the Applicant’s fundamental rights.
“Finally, based on the above we urge My Lord to so hold and refuse the applicants’ motion by dismissing it as it is made ‘malafide’ and in a bid to tarnish the image of the respondents and to punish the respondents for carrying out its statutory function by investigating the applicants.”
“On the whole, My Lord, it is our humble submission that this Honourable Court should discountenance the entire application and dismiss the same in its entirety.
Counsel to the anti-graft agency said they vehemently deny Paragraphs 5H, -Z and 6-11 of the applicant’s affidavit.
The EFCC said that investigation into the matter was long concluded and as such his clients are surprised at what they described as concocted lies made in the applicant’s affidavit in order to tarnish the hard earned image of the respondents.
Mr. Ukoha argued that the applicant never visited the offices of the respondents since after the conclusion of the investigation as they were all given a clean slate.
He noted that the respondents are very surprised at the affidavit of the applicant wherein lies are being concocted to tarnish the image of the respondents.
Part of the submission read, “That based on these lies, the respondents will seek remedy against the applicant in a court of competent jurisdiction where issues will be dealt with accordingly. That there was no time where the respondents or its staff visited the house of the applicant and arrested his gateman.
“That the applicant is put to the strictest proof thereof. That I know as a fact that the commission does not investigate and/or prosecute cases at the whims and caprices of petitioners.”
Mr. Ukoha argued that he knows for a fact the respondent did not in any way violate or threaten to violate the fundamental rights of the applicant.
But in a written reply filed on February 18, 2021, the counsel to the applicant, Mr. Andem argued that the EFCC and its operatives acted in bad faith because they knew, abinitio, that Mr. Williams had no case to answer before them.
Part of the reply reads, “In fact, they admitted this much in paragraph 2(9) of their counter-affidavit where the applicant was given a clean slate by them.
“Consequently, how can their subsequent violations of the applicant’s rights be justified when they no longer had a statutory duty to investigate any allegation.”
Mr. Andem, therefore, prayed the court “to find that it is constitutionally wrong and a brazen and unnecessary show of strength and financial prowess and indeed a violation of applicants fundamental rights for the respondents to have maliciously unleashed the full weight of their statutory powers when the applicant had done nothing against the law to deserve such brazen acts of impunity.”
Meanwhile, when the case came up for hearing last week before the court, neither the EFCC or its counsel was present.
The judge had adjourned the case to April 21, 2021, for definite hearing.