Court orders ICPC to unfreeze firm’s accounts, release seized property
A Federal High Court, Abuja, has faulted decision of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to freeze Blaid Construction Limited and its director, Mrs. Ochuko Momoh’s bank accounts.
In spite of a suit filed against it, ICPC directed banks, including Union Bank Plc to freeze accounts and property belonging to Blaid and Mrs. Momoh, while claiming to be investigating their sources of income.
The action was, however, challenged by the plaintiffs in suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/132/2019 for which Justice Binta Nyako frowned on ICPC’s conduct during the resumed hearing on May 2, 2019.
Counsel to the plaintiffs, Ade Adedeji (SAN) told court that ICPC failed to comply with an order of March 5, 2019, which directed the unfreezing of plaintiffs’ accounts and property.
The judge consequently ordered the commission to reverse its actions with regard to the plaintiffs’ assets and accounts.
Adedeji noted that rather than comply with the court’s order, ICPC went ahead to file a notice of appeal with the intention of restraining the court and stall hearing of his client’s case.
He argued that the mere filing of a notice of appeal by a party does not act as a stay of proceedings or an avenue to disobey a court order.
“For the past three months, over 270 employees of the plaintiffs, including Blaid Farms staff have not been paid. The plaintiffs are unable to access their accounts to pay their staff salaries.
“In the interest of justice, we apply to direct ICPC Chairman, who is the alter ego, to obey the court’s order before taking any further steps,” Adedeji stated.
Responding, counsel to ICPC, E. C. Otti, refuted Adedeji’s allegations, insisting that his client was constrained in obeying the court’s order to release the money in the banks.
Otti argued that Section 45 of the ICPC Act, 2000 allows the commission to freeze accounts for 12 months without any court order.
But in her ruling, Justice Nyako insisted that ICPC must obey the court’s order, saying: “What I want ICPC to do is to first obey the court order and come back to seek any other prayers.
“The defendant is to undo what it has done on February 6, 2019 when the defendant became aware that this matter is before this court, failing which you will be in contempt of court.
“The plaintiffs are to maintain status quo in respect of the affected accounts. Salaries can be paid out of the accounts and nothing more.”