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Businessmen seek redress against alleged police harassment, threats

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Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu. Photo: TWITTER/FINMINNIGERIA

Two businessmen, Dare Osamo and Kehinde Okelade have asked the Federal High Court, Lagos to restrain the Nigerian Police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from threatening and harassing them over a business deal that went wrong with another aggrieved party. 

Their fundamental rights enforcement suit marked FHC/L/CS/1017/20 was filed by their counsel, Mr Oyewo Damilola before Justice Chukwujekwu  Aneke.

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Aside the EFCC and Inspector General of Police (IGP), other respondents are Mr. Isaaki Adewole; Lanre Bamgbose; Shibawell Energy Services Limited, and Star Orient Nigeria Limited respectively.
 
Specifically, Osamo is seeking the court’s declaration that the claims of the first to fourth respondents, on an alleged breach of a Joint Venture Agreement between him and Adewole and their companies (third and fourth respondents) is a dispute referable to the civil court only in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

Osamo, who is the first applicant, is seeking a court order for a declaration that his arrest and detention by the police, as well as the continued threats of further arrests and detention on account of the various petitions of the respondents and complaint of an alleged breach of a Joint Venture Agreement between him and the first respondent, constitutes a gross violation of his fundamental right to personal liberty and is therefore illegal and unconstitutional.

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The second applicant, Okelade is asking the court for a declaration that the freezing of his company’s bank account, Impact Energy and Logistics Limited, domiciled with Zenith Bank Plc with Account number 1014100432 by agents of the fifth respondent, on account of the orchestrated allegation of fraud by the first to the fourth respondent, is a gross violation of his right to property guaranteed under Sections 43 of the 1999 Constitution and is accordingly unconstitutional and illegal.

Both applicants are seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents whether by themselves, their officers, servants, agents, and or representatives from further harassing, molesting, arresting, or detaining the applicants’ directors, employees, officers, servants, agents, and or representatives, or otherwise interfering in any manner howsoever with their rights to personal liberty.

However, they prayed the court for an order of mandatory injunction directing IGP, through its officers or servants or agents or representatives, to immediately unfreeze the second applicant’s company bank accounts. 

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They prayed the court to award the sum of N200 million in their favour against the respondents, jointly and severally being damages for the unlawful interference with their rights to personal liberty.
 
The applicants’ affidavit in support deposed to by Sunday Victor, a litigation officer of the Osasuyi Adebayo Law Firm, stated that the first respondent is the alter ego of the third respondent, Shibahwell Energy, and Logistics Limited, and the second respondent is a shareholder of the fourth respondent Company and is a director and shareholder of Star Orient Nigeria Limited, the 4th respondent in the suit. 

The deponent stated that the first applicant was sometime on July 31, 2018, approached by the first respondent to enter into a Joint Venture Agreement with him as he felt they could partner quite well in the supply of aviation fuel to the airlines at the Lagos Airport area, adding that the first applicant and the first respondent along with their various companies, had a business relationship for a little over a year when the parties audited their books and saw that the business had made some losses.

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He averred that the first respondent and his company were having liquidity issues in terms of financing and rather than use tested financial models and or restructure his various facilities with the banks, he authored a petition to the police against the first applicant. 
   
He said the said petition was used to harass, intimidate and coerce the first applicant as both first and second respondents had decided to gang up to push him out of the company and that rather than take out all perceived grievance in court or at arbitration, both the second and fourth respondents authored a petition to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police Zone 2 Command Onikan.

The deponent averred further that the first applicant was detained on two different occasions as a result of all the several petitions against him by the same set of adversaries.

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He stated further that on May 20, 2020, another supplementary petition written by the fourth respondent and signed by the first and second respondents, after they had forced him to resign as a director of the company and the first respondent became a director in the company of the fourth respondent through the back door. 

He averred that as a result of the petitions of January 17, 2020, and various others by the second and fourth respondents, men of the IGP illegally wrote to the bank of the second applicant’s company, asking for a freeze of the accounts of the second applicant and that it was after the second applicant’s solicitors threatened to sue the bank that the bank unfroze their account.

He averred that several matters were consolidated at the Police Zonal Command, but as at date no formal charge has been brought against the first applicant, the officers of the sixth respondent extended rather another invitation to the first applicant on July 22, 2020, to report to their office on August 10, 2020. 

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He stated that to date, the applicants have not been charged to any court of law, rather the first to fourth respondents have used the coloration of illegality to violate their liberty and right to own property.

The deponent, while stating that he deposed to the affidavit in good faith, noted that it would be in the interest of justice to grant the application.

The first to third respondents in their preliminary objection to the businessmen’s suit, filed by their counsel Ogbonnaya Agbafo, asked the court to make an order dismissing or striking out the suit for having been brought mala fide, for being incompetent, and for constituting an abuse of the process of the court.

Alternatively, the respondents asked for an order striking out the suit or staying proceedings pending the determination of the action disclosed in relatedly parallel/concurrent matter with suit no. FHC/UCS/874/2020 – Star Orient Nigeria Limited v. Mr. Dare Osamo and two others, or for a further order striking out the suit for want of jurisdiction.

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Also, the EFCC in a counter-affidavit deposed to by one of its operatives, Nwike Nubari Fortune, a member of Team A of the Bank Fraud Section, stated that Fortune was one of the investigating officers assigned to investigate the criminal complaint of forgery, stealing, and money laundering amounting to hundreds of billions of naira against the applicants.

The deponent stated that on January 25, 2020, his agency received a criminal complaint written by the Law Firm of Agbafo & Co. on behalf of Star Orient Nigeria Limited bordering on the offences of forgery, stealing, and money laundering against the first applicant, Access Bank Plc and First City Monument Bank Limited.

The petitioner, he said, alleged among others that the first applicant used his position as the Managing Director of Star Orient Nigeria Limited to defraud the company of billions of naira with the connivance of Access Bank Plc; First City Monument Bank Limited (FCMB), and Access Bank Plc., adding that the FCMB is the petitioner’s bankers.
 

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He stated that having satisfied that the content of the petition is criminal in nature and within the mandate of the Commission to investigate, his team commenced a preliminary investigation and that at the conclusion of the preliminary investigation, the first applicant and others mentioned in the petition responded to the allegations.

The deponent states that the first applicant was never harassed, threatened and or detained at any time and that his agency is not in connivance with any of the respondents to violate the fundamental rights of the applicants. 

The deponent, while urging the court not to grant the applicants N100 million damages or any amount whatsoever requested, insisted that it did not at any time violate or intend to violate their fundamental rights.

Agbafe also asked the court to dismiss the suit in the interest of justice.

But the IGP men are yet to file any response to the suit.

Meanwhile, Justice Aneke has fixed May 8, 2021, for hearing of the suit.

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