Judge to Ajumogobia: Why I won’t award N50m damages against EFCC

Justice Ofili-AjumogobiaA Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday refused an invitation by a serving judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia to declare her detention illegal and award a N50millon damages against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the purported illegal detention.

The high court said that the judge was lawfully detained since th EFCC secured a remand order from a magistrate court regarding her detention.

The court also said that her complaint against detention without trial had been overtaken by events having been properly charged and arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction.

The court however said that Ajumogobia could bring an action to challenge days she was detained by the EFCC without any order of court backing it.

The court also counselled the EFCC   on the manner in which it carried out its probe of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.

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Delivering judgement in a N50 million fundamental rights suit filed by Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia against the EFCC, the trial judge, Muslim Hassan, urged the EFCC to be more  professional in the discharge of its duties.

It will be recalled that Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, is seeking among other things, an order of the court declaring her continued detention by the EFCC as illegal.

While noting that the EFCC was vested with powers to arrest and detain any citizen suspected to have committed an offence, Mr. Hassan said that such powers must be exercised with caution.

The judge questioned the rationale behind the revocation of the administrative bail granted to Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia by the EFCC on October 22, when she did not pose a flight risk.

He said: “The respondent should have exercised restraints in revoking the bail earlier granted the applicant; there was no evidence that the applicant is a flight risk.

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“The respondent is hereby counselled to be professional and to always exercise caution and restraints in the exercise of its powers.”

Mr. Hassan, however, disagreed with Ofili-Ajumogobia that the remand order obtained by the EFCC from a magistrates’ court on November 10 was unlawful, illegal and a violation of her fundamental human rights.

According to Mr. Hassan, the remand order was issued by the Magistrates’ Court pursuant to Section 264(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2011.

The judge therefore refused to make any order as to the applicant’s request for bail from the EFCC’s custody, following her arraignment on November 28 before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of an Ikeja High Court.

“The issue of the applicant’s bail from EFCC’s custody has already been overtaken by the event of her arraignment at the Lagos High Court and her subsequent release on bail by the court.

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“The applicant’s lawyer is also at liberty to challenge the continued detention of the applicant by the respondent after the expiration of the magistrate court’s remand order.

“However, in the light of the recent event in this matter, this suit is hereby struck out,’’ the judge held.

The EFCC had on November 28 arraigned Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, on a 30-count corruption charges before an Ikeja High Court.

They had, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and had since been granted bail on self recognition by the court.