Court Orders Status Quo In Tarfa, EFCC Suit
A FEDERAL High Court, Lagos yesterday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to maintain status quo in respect of the case involving it and Mr. Ricky Tarfa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The applicant (Tarfa) had filed a motion exparte for enforcement of his fundamental rights before Justice Mohammed Idris on February 8.Joined as respondents are the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, Mr. Moses Awolusi and Mr. Iliyasu Kwabai.
Tarfa’s application is seeking an order, directing the respondents to release his mobile phones and his Mercedes Benz Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
The applicant also seeks an order for substituted service of the originating motion on the respondents, as well as an order staying all actions relating to the instant application pending the hearing of the suit.
When the case was called yesterday, Mr. Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) announced appearance for the applicant, alongside five other senior advocates, Joseph Nwobike, Abiodun Owonikoko, Adeniyi Adegbomire, Babajide Koku and Abimbola Akeredolu.
Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo announced appearance for the respondents and informed the court that the respondents were not served with court processes in the suit.
Oyedepo then expressed his willingness to receive service of the processes in court, adding that the non-service was a ploy by the applicant to shut out the respondents.
Following an order of court, the court bailiff was summoned inside the court and he effected service of the processes on the respondents.
After service had been effected, Ayorinde then prayed the court to order that status quo be maintained in the view of the pendency of the instant suit, for which Oyedepo had now accepted service.
Objecting to the application by counsel to the applicant, Oyedepo urged the court to “resist the temptation” of making such orders.
He argued: “If my lord makes such orders, then the court would have precluded the EFCC from carrying out its lawful duties.
“My lord, there is already a pending charge against the applicant before Justice Opensanwo of the Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere.
“If my lord grants any restraining orders with respect to this application, then the respondent would have been precluded from exercising its duties.
“I just hope this great team of lawyers appearing for the applicant here today will be present at the trial to also stand for him.
“I urge my lord not to be tempted,” he said.
In a swift reaction, Ayorinde informed the court that it was not been cajoled into making any order foisting the powers of any court, but only to ask that status quo be maintained.
In a short ruling, Justice Idris held: “I have listened to learned senior counsels in this suit. It is clear from the affidavit evidence before this court that the applicant herein was served with a criminal charge in suit No LD/2417/C16 between FRN v Ricky Tarfa.
“This court will not, therefore, in the circumstances by an order or make any order that will obstruct the free flow of that matter. I have no such jurisdiction. This is on the one hand.
“On the other hand, while this suit is pending, no party shall take any step that will foist the fait accompli or render nugatory, any judgment the court will give at the conclusion of trial.
The respondent shall in the interim, have the duty of preserving the right of the applicant, as guaranteed under the constitution and the African Charter on human and people’s right, pending the hearing of this application.
“This suit is hereby adjourned to February 19 for hearing of the substantive application,” Idris ruled.
In his affidavit evidence, the applicant averred that he was whisked away by operatives of the first respondent on February 5 at courtroom No 2 of Justice O.O. Oke of the Lagos High Court, Igbosere.
He said the respondent had alleged that the applicant was under arrest for obstructing the course of justice.
He averred that he was forced to drive in the convoy of the respondent to its office at No. 15A, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi.
According to the applicant, at the respondent’s office, he was subjected to rigorous interview under camera and asked about his relationship with Justice Mohammed Nasiru Yunusa of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The applicant averred that he was also asked about the alleged telephone conversation between him and the Judge in respect of the complaint of bias.
He averred that he was kept in the respondent’s custody from February 5 to 7 and his cell phones, as well as his vehicle seized.
The applicant, therefore, stressed that it will be in the interest of justice to grant the reliefs sought, as contained in the motion paper.