Suspected internet fraudster, Mompha, demands N5m damages from EFCC

An internet socialite, Ismaila Mustapha, popularly known as Mompha, has dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before a Lagos Federal High Court, demanding his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the sum of N5million as damages.

Mompha is also asking the court for a declaration that his arrest and detention at the instance of the EFCC since August 14, 2020, is unlawful, unjustifiable, unconstitutional and a breach of his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

He also wants the court to declare that his continuous/further detention by the EFCC, without any justification and without being charged or arraigned before a Court of competent jurisdiction is unconstitutional and constitutes a gross fundamental right to personal liberty and fair hearing as contained in Section 35 (4) & (5) and Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Mompha also wants the court to declare that the continuous seizure and confiscation of his personal items/belongings to wit; five wristwatches; one Apple Airpod; one iPhone 8; and sunglasses, earlier ordered to be released to by an Order of Court made on July 24, 2020 in charge No: FHC/L/413c/2019 is unlawful, unjustifiable, unconstitutional and constitutes a gross violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to own property as contained in Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

He further wants the court to make an order directing the EFCC to comply with the Order of Court made on July 24, 2020 in charge No: FHC/L/413c/2019, by immediately releasing his personal items/belongings to him to wit; Five Wristwatches; One Apple Airpod; One Iphone 8; and Sun glasses.

Mompha also begged the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC or any person whatsoever acting for or on its behalf, from arresting and detaining him in relation to the subject of this suit without recourse to due process of law.

Mompha’s fundamental rights enforcement suit against the EFCC, was filed by his teams of lawyers, led by a Senior Advocate, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole.

The suit marked FHC/L/CS/1106/2020, according to his lawyers, was pursuant to sections 34; 35; 36; 44 and 46(1)(2) of the constitution of Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999; the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Order 2 Rules (1)-(5) and Order six of the fundamental rights (enforcement procedure) Rule 2009 and under inherent jurisdiction of the court.

Mompha was arrested last week Friday, by the operatives of the EFCC, after he had gone to their office on Awolowo road, Ikoyi, Lagos, to reclaimed his seized items, which Justice Muhammad Liman, ordered to be released to him.

Mompha in a 16 paragraph-affidavit in support of the application, deposed to by one Kayode Adeboye, a Litigation Clerk in the law firm of Lords and Temple Attorneys, stated that he was informed by Ademola Adefolaju, Esq, one of the Counsel representing the applicant on August 17, 2020, in their office, that the Applicant is a Nigerian businessman and first defendant in a criminal matter pending before Hon. Justice Liman of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos between Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Ismaila Mustapha and Another, with charge no: FHC/L/413C/2019.

The deponent averred that the Court in that matter had on November 29, 2019 granted bail to the Applicant herein, pending the final determination of the matter. And that one of the conditions of the bail granted to the applicant by the Honourable Court in Charge No: FHC/L/413C/2019 was that the Applicant should report to the Respondent’s office every fortnight (two weeks) and the Applicant has always reported at the Respondent’s office as directed by the Honourable Court without defaulting. Adding that the applicant has not for once jumped bail, neither has he violated any of the conditions of bail granted nor has he ever been absent in court throughout the course of proceedings which is still ongoing.

He stated that consequent upon the grant of bail to the applicant and the commencement of trial, the respondent in the above referred charge, amended the charges against the Applicant twice.

And that upon the second amendment of the charges filed against the applicant on March 3, 2020, the Respondent has not raised any new charges or further amendment against the Applicant before the Court or any other Court of law in Nigeria.

He stated that the EFCC had closed its case in charge no: FHC/L/413C/2019, on July 17, 2020, ten (10) months after his arrest, conclusion of investigation and arraignment before a court of competent jurisdiction, no fresh charges had been proffered against the applicant by the EFCC.

And that 10 witnesses had been called by the EFCC as prosecution witness in Charge No: FHC/L/413C/2019 in proof of the charges against the Applicant, all of whom were thoroughly cross-examined by the applicant’s counsel and thereafter the Respondent’s closed its case and a No Case Submission was filed on behalf of the Applicant.

He further stated that upon close of the case of the EFCC in Charge No: FHC/L/CS/413c/2019, the applicant brought an application before the Court for the release of his personal items in their possession which were being held unlawfully and without any legal justification.

And that the court Court in a well considered ruling delivered on July 27, 2020 granted orders, mandating EFCC, its agents and privies, to release to theApplicant his personal items in their possession which were being held unlawfully and without any legal justification.

He averred that the Court had also earlier granted an order releasing the Applicants international passport submitted to the Honourable Court’s Registry to enable him travel to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) for fourteen (14) days for medical and sundry purposes.

All these the EFCC did not object to the grant of the Application for the Applicant to have his international Passport released from the Registry of the Honourable Court.

The deponent further averred that during the course of the Court proceedings on July 17, 2020 in charge no: FHC/L/413C72019, the Court having been informed of the pendency of the Applicant’s application for the release of the Applicant’s personal item in the custody of the Respondents directed the Respondent to show probable cause why the Applicant’s personal items in their possession should not be released to him.

And that as a result of the failure of the EFCC to show to the Court probable cause why the Applicant’s personal items in their possession should not be released to the Applicant, the Court consequently granted the Applicant’s application and directed the EFCC to release to him his personal items in their custody forthwith.

And that consequent on the said orders, the applicant went to the EFCC’s office at 15, Awolowo Way, lkoyi, Lagos on August 14, 2020, to retrieve the items which the Court had ordered be released, but upon getting there, the Applicant was arrested by the officers of the Respondent for no justifiable reason and they have continued to detain him unjustly in gross infringements of his fundamental rights.

Adding that the EFCC confiscated the personal items of the applicant which the Court had earlier order to be released to him, while further confiscating a vehicle used in conveying the applicant to the Respondent’s office i.e. a Grey Coloured Toyota Tundra 2012 model with Registration No. AGL876DR and other personal items.

He states further that the applicant has been held in the custody of the Respondent at the behest of one Sini Omar John, the Head of Advanced Fee Fraud Section, EFCC and one Kaine Garba, the Officer in Charge of Team D, Advanced Fee Fraud Section, EFCC, since August 14, 2020, without any plausible reason and/or explanation; and infractions to his rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement continue unlawfully and arbitrarily.

He also stated that prior to the granting of the order of the Court for the release of Applicant’s personal items in possession of the EFCC, whenever the Applicant reports to the Respondent’s office every fortnight (two weeks) as directed by the Honourable Court in fulfillment of his bail conditions, both Sini Omar John, Head of Advanced Fee Fraud Section, EFCC and Kaina Garba, the Officer in Charge of Team D, Advanced Fee Fraud Section, EFCC, always threaten the Applicant to stop demanding for the release of his personal items and further threaten to deal with the applicant, if he does not desist from demanding for his personal items.

He stated that applicant has been reporting every fortnight as directed by Hon. Justice Liman in Charge No: FHC/L/4l3C/2019, save for the (COVID-19) lockdown period and at no time was he interrogated in relation to fresh allegations against him.

And that the EFCC through Sini Omar John and Kaina Garba, are in contempt of Orders of the Honourable Court made in Charge No: FHC/L/4l3C/2019 by refusing to release the personal items belonging to the Applicant.

He further stated they the EFCC through Sini Omar John and Kaina Garba is in gross abuse of the powers prescribed and reposed in them as an investigatory agency and are using the vehicle of the law to perpetrate injustice on the applicant.

Adding that upon the applicant’s arrest on August 14, 2020, Mr. Sini Omar John, the Head of the Advanced Fee Fraud Section, EFCC on behalf of the respondent requested the presence of one of the counsels representing the applicant at their office at Okotie Eboh, Ikoyi Lagos, to attend the interrogation session with the applicant at 12 noon.

He averred that upon getting to the EFCC’s office at Okotie Eboh, Ikoyi Lagos, by 12 noon, Mr. Kolawole Salami, Esq placed a phone call to the Mr. Sini Omar John, the Head of the Advanced Fee Fraud Section, EFCC, informing him of his presence to represent the applicant as requested by Mr. Sini Omar John, who instructed the security personnel at the entrance of the respondent to allow Mr Kolawole Salami, Esq into the EFCC’s premises and into his office in furtherance of him representing the applicant in the interrogation session.

He stated that to the surprise of Mr. Kolawole Salami, Esq, upon entering into the premises of the EFCC, he was accosted by one Mr. Ariyo, who began to harass and molest him along with other staffs of the EFCC without any justification by physically assaulting him, seizing his mobile phone and walking him out of the respondent’s office premises. Adding that upon his visit to the EFCC’s office on August 15, 2020, he was given a slip containing purported terms of administrative bail given to the applicant which includes, a surety with a landed property in Ikoyi or Victoria Island and a Level 17 Civil Servant (State or Federal) residing in Lagos. A copy of the slip containing the purported administrative bail by the EFCC.

And that the Court has declared the use of civil servant as surety for bail to be unlawful and in breach of the Civil Service Regulation.

He averred that the Court bail granted to the applicant by a competent court of law is still subsisting and he has never flouted any of the conditions at any point in time, hence the result to administrative bail by the EFCC with impossible terms shows the malicious intent of the EFCC to keep the applicant in their custody in perpetuity. And that the applicant, if not protected by orders of this Honourable Court, will be subjected to continuous harassment, intimidation and humiliation by the Respondent through its agents and privies, in gross infringement of his fundamental rights and liberties.

He stated that it will be in the interest of justice that the Court grants this application and the respondent would not be prejudiced in any way by the grant of same. And that the Court has the inherent power to grant the orders being sought by the applicant and preserve his fundamental rights guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

He stated that unless the Court grants the applicant’s prayers as sought herein, his fundamental rights to liberty and fair hearing will continue to be infringed and trampled upon by the respondent in clear violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

 

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