You can’t declare anyone wanted without court order – Judge tells EFCC

The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory has ruled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has no powers to declare anyone wanted without first obtaining a court order for that purpose or charging the suspect with an offence.

Justice Othman Musa, who gave the verdict, noted that although the EFCC could declare wanted persons who fail to honour its invitation for investigation, it could only do so if it obtained a court order for that purpose.

The judge made this pronouncement in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the Chief Executive Officer of AITEO Group, Benedict Peters.

Peters had, in the suit marked, FCT/HC/CV/23/2017, accused EFCC of declaring him wanted on its website without following due process.

The EFCC and the Attorney-General of the Federation were the respondents to the suit.

The plaintiff, through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), contended that his declaration as wanted by the EFCC to declare him wanted without a pending charge against him or a valid court order to that effect was a violation of his fundamental rights.

The EFCC had said Peters was being investigated in relation to his alleged involvement the $115m allegedly used by agents of the past administration to bribe officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission during the 2015 election.

But Justice Musa, in his judgment, noted that there were discrepancies in the dates of the bench warrant tendered by the EFCC.

He said it was wrong for the EFCC to declare Peters wanted on the basis of the bench warrant, which he noted, did not contain any instruction to that effect.

He ruled, “The 1st respondent (EFCC) has the power to declare anyone wanted upon meeting all the conditions precedent.

“There cannot be a valid restraint of individual’s right to movement without the order of a court.”

He set aside the declaration of the applicant wanted by the EFCC.

He also refused to award any cost against the EFCC.

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