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Former prosecutor sues commission over illegal detention

The commission had detained Godwin Obla (SAN) in its custody pending the conclusion of its investigations.

Chief Godwin Obla

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had preferred a 30-count charge of conspiracy to pervert justice for the sum of N5 million against Obla and Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of a Federal High Court.

The commission had detained the duo in its custody pending the conclusion of its investigations.

On Monday, Obla through his counsel, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), brought an application, praying the court to declare his continued detention by the commission as unlawful.

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In his argument, Adedipe urged the court to hold that the continued detention of his client and the seizure of his mobile phones constituted an infringement on his rights to liberty and ownership of property.

He said his client, who was once a prosecutor for the EFCC was invited to the commission on Nov. 8 and was unduly detained till date.

According to him, the phones of the applicant were seized, contrary to constitutional provisions to own property.

"The detention of Obla from Nov. 8 till when the EFCC obtained a magisterial order for further detention is a gross violation of his rights to personal liberty," he said.

In his response, the counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the applicant’s processes for lack of merit.

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Oyedepo argued that the steps taken by the EFCC were allowed by law in the dispensation of its duties.

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

He said that also following intelligence reports, Ajumogobia was discovered to be the sole signatory to Nigel & Colive Ltd.

He said the money was transferred to the judge during the hearing of a case before her court with suit numbered as: FHC/L/CS/482/10.

“The mere transfer of the money to the judge during the hearing of the case before her clearly showed a mind set to unduly gratify,’’ he said.

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He urged the court to hold that there existed a reasonable cause for suspicion by the commission.

“The applicant even agreed that there was a communication between him and the judge,’’ he said.

On the issue of undue detention, Oyedepo argued that on Nov.8 after the applicant was detained, investigations could not be concluded and so, on Nov. 9, an application was brought before a magistrates’ court, for a remand order.

He said the court was empowered by the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws, to grant a remand order for 14 days, adding that the order was given in the presence of the applicant.

He argued that the applicant did not file any application before the magistrates’ court for a variation of terms, or even an appeal against its ruling, adding that this court could not sit on appeal over the issue.

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On the argument of unlawful detention, Oyedepo submitted that even the constitution allows for the liberty of individuals to be curtailed, adding that the EFCC acted in line with due provisions of the law.

On the seizure of the applicant’s mobile phones, Oyedepo argued that Section 44 (k) of the constitution allows for the temporary taking over of a property, for purposes of inquiry, adding that such right was qualified.

He, therefore, urged the court not to allow it to be used as a shield against lawful prosecution.

Justice Mohammed Idris fixed judgment for Nov. 25.

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