Court sets aside detention order of ex-Skye Bank chairman
Kicks as UK agency accuses it of undermining anti-graft war
An Abuja High Court sitting in Maitama today set aside an earlier order it granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission be, EFCC to detain a former Chairman of the defunct Skye Bank, Tunde Ayeni for 14 days.
The court further noted that the Commission had suppressed facts which misled the court into earlier granting the application, thereby, making the detention illegal.
The trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu consequently ordered his immediate release from the custody of the anti-graft agency.
The decision of the Court was a sequel to an enforcement of fundamental rights suit filed by Ayeni, through his counsel, Ahmed Raji SAN seeking his release from the EFCC custody.
The anti-graft agency had last week approached the Court through an ex-parte application seeking a 14-day remand order of Ayeni.
The Commission had premised the request for a remand on a need to investigate a petition submitted by the Office of the Vice President in respect of his alleged roles as the Chairman of the defunct Skye Bank.
The court then granted the said ex-parte application.
Ayeni had however approached the Court to challenge the order and prayed that same be set aside.
In his argument, Raji submitted that the application is challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the action of the Commission.
He informed the court, that there is a pending suit before the Federal High Court against the applicant on the same subject matter and that the trial judge at the Federal High Court, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba had in the particular case admitted him to bail.
He added that the bail condition had since been perfected
Raji added that the detention of the applicant was a breach of his fundamental human right as he went to the Commission by himself on an invitation.
He further submitted that anti-graft agency purportedly admitted the applicant to administration bail on non-realizable terms, which amounts to “giving bail with one hand, and collecting it back with the other hand”.
Raji argued, that the subject matter in which the applicant has detained centres around Skye bank issue which is already before the Federal High Court.
He, however, prayed the court to set aside the remand order and release the applicant.
In his response, respondent counsel, A.I Audu opposed to the application on the ground that the subject matter of which the applicant is being detained was fresh quite different from the that of the matter before the Federal High Court.
He added that asides the petition submitted by the Office of the Vice President, the acting Chairman of the Commission also received a petition against the applicant from a Non-Governmental Organization.
He, however, added that the applicant was invited based on the petition that he received about N8 billion from CBN to buy over Union Homes.
Audu further submitted that the applicant has been giving useful information to the Commission but fell ill along the way and he was consequently taken to the hospital.
He added, it is the illness of the applicant that prompted the Commission to seek an order to further remand him to complete the investigation.
Replying on point of law, Raji countered the respondent’s submission, stating that the petition which the respondent relied on to detain the applicant was dated 2015.
He further submitted that the amount in question was a loan, which the applicant is already servicing. He, however, queried which law of the land made accessing a loan, a crime.
Justice Halilu held that with the submissions of both counsels, it was clear that the respondent suppressed fact when it came to asking for a remand order.
He noted that the respondent did not attach the fresh petition it claimed was written against the applicant, but rather attached a petition sent from the Office of the Vice President.
He also noted that the respondent did not inform the court that the Commission had granted the applicant an administrative bail and also that the applicant also standing trial before the Federal High Court and since been admitted to bail.
Justice Halilu held that the Court was not aware of all the fact presented by the applicant and which the respondent could not deny.
“Having considered all the facts before the court, it is clear that the respondent suppressed facts to mislead the court. If indeed there is a fresh petition against the applicant, and a pending matter is before the Federal High Court, the respondent need not a remand order, but to apply to amend the charge in which it is prosecuting the applicant.
“By coming for a remand order, the respondent had come to tamper with the sacred right of the applicant, which he enjoys. I wonder why the respondent does not attach the fresh petition it claimed it received. What I have before me is a petition written by the Office of the Vice President”.
“On this note, I hereby set aside the earlier remand order and order the immediate release of the applicant”.
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