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Obla loses fundamental right action against EFCC


Godwin Obla

Godwin Obla

A federal High Court in Lagos yesterday struck out an application by Mr. Godwin Obla (SAN), seeking enforcement of his rights against alleged unlawful detention by he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). 

The anti-graft agency had preferred a 30-count charge against Obla and a Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, bordering on conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.

The commission had detained the duo in its custody, pending the conclusion of its investigations.Obla had through his counsel, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), brought an application, praying the court to declare as unlawful, his continued detention in custody and the seizure of his mobile phones.

Adedipe had argued that the action of the EFCC constituted an infringement on his client’s rights to personal liberty and ownership of property and urged the court to issue an order, declaring Obla’s continued detention as unlawful and a gross infringement on his rights.

In addition, Obla claimed the sum of N1billion against the EFCC as damages for the alleged infringement.Delivering judgment yesterday, Justice Mohammed Idris held that fundamental right couldn’t in any way be construed as meaning an absolute right, since it can be curtailed.He said:‎ “I cannot find my way clear in holding that the detention of the applicant is not in conformity with the provisions of the law.

“It is not in dispute that the mobile phone of the applicant was listed as one of the exhibits which the respondents intends to tender in the charge number LD/367/C/16.

“There is doubt that the relief sought does not have direct bearing with the case at the Lagos High Court, and so this court should not make an order that will strike at the heart of the charge.

“This is a case in which the court should not make any such orders, as this court and the Lagos State High Court are courts of concurrent jurisdiction.

“To make any order, which will have effects on the pending charge, will be to lend a helping hand in causing confusion in our courts.
“In the circumstance, I cannot find my way clear in granting any of the reliefs sought.“On the whole, I find that this application cannot succeed, and it is hereby struck out. “

Earlier in his argument on the application, Adedipe had urged the court to hold that the Obla’s continued detention and seizure of his mobile phones constituted an infringement on his rights.

He had told the court that the applicant, who was also a one-time prosecutor for the EFCC, was invited to the commission on November 8, this year and has been unduly detained till date and his phones also seized, contrary to constitutional provisions to own property.

He submitted that Obla’s detention from November 8 till when the EFCC obtained a magisterial order for further detention was a gross violation of his rights to personal liberty and urged the court to so hold.

In response, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the applicant’s processes for lack of merit, arguing that the steps taken by the EFCC were allowed by law in the dispensation of its duties.

According to him, intelligence report showed that Obla had a company, known as Obla & Co Ltd, from which a sum of N5 million was transferred to Justice Ajumogobia via a company known as Nigel & Colive Ltd.

He also stated that following reports, Justice Ajumogobia was discovered to be sole signatory to Nigel & Colive Ltd and the said sum of money was transferred to the Judge during the pendency of a case before her court, with suit No. FHC/L/CS/482/10, which clearly showed a mindset to unduly gratify.He urged the court to hold that there existed a reasonable cause for suspicion by the commission.

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