Eniola Akinkuotu, and Kamarudeen Ogundele
A Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to immediately unfreeze the accounts of the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Saying the action was against due process, Justice Taiwo Taiwo said the anti-graft agency did not follow the laid down regulations in freezing the accounts.
Justice Taiwo gave the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by Fayose through his lawyer, Mr. Mike Ozekhome (SAN).
The commission had frozen Fayose’s accounts after allegedly tracing N4.7bn from the office of the National Security Adviser to the accounts.
The governor had approached the court through an ex parte order seeking a mandatory order de-freezing the accounts but the court ordered that the respondents be placed on notice.
Delivering judgment in the suit on Wednesday, Justice Taiwo said the EFCC’s action breached the governor’s fundamental rights to fair hearing, as the commission did not make him a party to the proceedings for the interim freezing of the account.
He said it was also the duty of any presiding judge to protect the constitution and its interpretations whenever the need arose.
Justice Taiwo described Fayose as “a genuinely deprived person who rushed to the court to seek constitutional protection.”
“The plaintiff is entitled to be heard before his property or money can be seized, doing otherwise will amount to denying him fair hearing and constitutional rights.”
The judge agreed with Ozekhome that the EFCC suppressed facts by not disclosing the identity of the plaintiff (Fayose) to the court that granted the interim freezing order that the two accounts that were frozen belonged to a governor who enjoys total constitutional immunity.
Besides, he stated that the EFCC did not provide any credible evidence empowering it to carry out the freezing of the accounts.
The judge declared that being a person covered fully by immunity under Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, no legal proceedings could be instituted against Fayose.
“I hereby give a mandatory order directing the respondents jointly or severally to immediately de-freeze, unblock and make operational both accounts belonging to the applicant,” the judge said.
However, the EFCC has faulted the order urging it to lift the restriction placed on Fayose’s bank accounts.
The EFCC said in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, that the order which was delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo was at variance with another order given by Justice M. B Idris, granting the EFCC permission to freeze Fayose’s accounts.
The commission said it would appeal the judgement soon. (Punchng.com)