Jonathan Shakarho, a Justice of the Federal High Court, Ibadan, has awarded N10 million damages against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for attempting to forcefully seal off the private residence of former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Men of the commission had created a scene at the former governor's house on September 29, 2010 when they were mobilised to forcefully eject the occupants and seal it off.
It took the resistance of some of Mr Fayose's family members, who also reside in the house located within the Government's Reservation Area (GRA), Iyaganku Quarters, Ibadan, to save the day.
The former Ekiti State governor thereafter approached the court to seek redress and enforcement of his fundamental human rights. He prayed the court for an order confirming and enforcing his fundamental rights to fair hearing, dignity of human person, liberty, private and family life and to own immovable property; an order restraining the respondent from issuing misleading press statements or publishing the picture of the house in the media; N50 million damages and any other order the court may deem fit.
EFCC was obeying orders
In an 18-paragraph affidavit in support of the prayers, the applicant alleged that the EFCC officials intruded in his family's privacy and also published the picture of the building in print media.
He also averred that the EFCC's attempt to seal off the building claiming it was an order of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi was a lie. Mr Fayose said the EFCC was acting the political vendetta script authored from the Ekiti State government house through a letter dated September 20, 2010.
But the commission, in a 16-paragraph counter affidavit, said it only acted on the order given by Tijani Abubakar of Federal High Court, Ikoyi which empowered it to seal off the premises.
According to the EFCC, its office had been inundated with several petitions on Mr Fayose's alleged misdemeanour while still serving as the governor in 2005.
The allegations, it added, have to do with abuse of office, money laundering, corrupt practices and stealing of government funds especially money obtained through Biological Concept Nigeria Limited.
The EFCC said it was short of prosecuting the former governor because of the immunity he enjoyed then as one Gbenga James and some other persons arraigned in 2006 over similar offences mentioned his name as accomplice, adding that it later amended the charges to include his name after his impeachment by the Ekiti State House of Assembly.
It further stated that it had pasted the said order on Mr Fayose's house immediately after its issuance in 2006, together with the sealing notice, only for the former governor to go behind and "unseal the properties, removed the order and moved into them without the permission or authorisation of the respondent of the Federal Government of Nigeria."
The Judge's verdict
In his judgement delivered on Wednesday, Mr Shakarho posited that the commission must take full responsibility of the wrongful act carried out by his men on the day in question and ordered it to pay N10 million for damages.
According to him, the act is tantamount to "malicious embarrassment" to the former governor since there was no order of the court to forfeit his property to the Federal Government.
He also gave an order to restrain the commission, his agents, privies or anyone or organisation acting on its behalf from further issuing "misleading press statements, publishing pictures of the applicant's residence and or procuring the release of any misleading information in the print media, in any manner." The presiding judge equally restrained the EFCC from sealing off the said property or from engaging in any manner of infringement Mr Fayose's fundamental and constitutional rights.