A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to pay N12.5 million, being exemplary damages in favour of Alhaji Abdulaziz Nyako for unlawful frozen of his account and illegal detention.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole who made the order while delivering judgment in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, held that the applicant, son of former governor of Adamawa State, was detained in EFCC custody in excess of the period prescribed by law.
He berated the anti-graft agency over what he described as “reckless tampering with the rights of citizens in the name of discharging statutory duties.”
The court also held that by declaring the applicant wanted without evidence of crime amounted to a breach to his fundamental human rights, even as it accused the commission of embarking on a judicial fiat which is unpardonable exhibition of ignorance of the law as the National Assembly never intended to give it the powers of an accuser and a judge.
“The reckless tampering with the rights of citizens in the name of carrying out statutory duties is an act to subvert not only the letters, but the spirit of the constitution,” he said.
Justice Kolawole further held that the EFCC acted illegally beyond its powers to have frozen Nyako’s personal account for two years without a valid court order, saying, “the action of the respondent (EFCC) amounted to usurping the powers of court by entering a final determination of guilt on the applicant.”
He said the proof of guilt can only be undertaken by courts of competent jurisdiction and not by any agency including the EFCC.
“It is only after a conviction that the court can make a final order of forfeiture as the rights of suspects are not determined by exparte application without hearing from them.”
Justice Kolawole said the National Assembly cannot, therefore, empower any agency or statutory body to act in defiance to the constitution.
In the instant case, the applicant was in the custody of the respondent between February 12 and 17, 2016 and released on February 17 without being charged to court. No matter the date, the question is, has there been a violation of his right?
“I hold that there was an infringement of his fundamental human rights because he was detained for three days in excess of the period prescribed by law.
“I hold that the EFCC acted with a guilty knowledge just to injure the applicant’s status and pride as son of a former governor,” Justice Kolawole held.