Court unfreezes Ozekhome’s N75 million legal fee account
A Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday vacated a freezing order on the account of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome.
The court had on February 7, 2017 frozen Ozekhome’s Guaranty Trust Bank account into which he received N75 million legal fee from the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose on the ground that it was suspected to be a proceed of crime.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had claimed that the N75 million, which Fayose paid to Ozekhome was part of the N2.26 billion arms procurement funds allegedly looted by former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
The anti-graft agency claimed to have traced N1.22 billion out of the N2.26 billion to Fayose.
On that basis, Justice Abdulaziz Anka gave a freezing order for 120 days.
Displeased, however, Ozekhome urged the court to vacate the interim order on the ground that the EFCC suppressed material facts in obtaining the order.
He contended that the action of the EFCC was unconstitutional, had no legal justification and was a gross violation of sections 36, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution.
In his ruling yesterday, Justice Anka granted Ozekhome’s prayer and dismissed the counter-affidavit filed in opposition by the EFCC.
The judge said though it was not in doubt that the N75 million came from Fayose, Ozekhome could not be held liable because there was no restriction on Fayose’s account as of the time the money was paid to Ozekhome’s law firm.
Justice Anka noted that the freezing order earlier obtained by the EFCC in respect of Fayose’s accounts had been lifted by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti.
He said he would not allow himself to be lured into sitting as an appellate judge over the counter-decisions of Justice Mohammed Idris who earlier ordered the freezing of Fayose’s accounts and that of Justice Taiwo who later unfroze the accounts.
He further stated that in both the order and the depositions, the account, numbered 1000312625, was evidently and manifestly defrozen, adding that such an argument by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo cannot hold water.
The judge, however, said he found sufficient grounds to reject EFCC’s counter-affidavit, including the fact that Ozekhome had already dissipated the N75 million which the anti-graft agency sought to stop him from touching.
He said: “From the circumstances and facts as outlined above, my decision is based on the following considerations: considering the fact that the source of the fund of the respondent/applicant is derivable from an unencumbered account; considering also the fact that such account has also been defrozen via the order of the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti; among others.”
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