A suit brought before Lagos Federal High Court by a former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, challenging the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC’s) right to seize his properties has been sacked for lack of merit.
The anti-graft agency had on June 14, 2016 conducted a search on the home of the applicant and subsequently seized properties belonging to him and members of his family.
Sequel to that action, Obanikoro and his family sued the commission through their counsel, Lawal Pedro and prayed the court to declare that the forceful seizure of their personal effects amounts to gross violation of their rights.
They also asked the court to set aside the forceful seizure of their properties and demanded an unreserved public apology.
More so, the applicants sought for an award of N100million as general damages and an order restraining the commission from arresting them or coming to their home to carry out further search or to seize their belongings.
They had further questioned the way and manner the EFCC search warrant was carried out, citing anomalies, and therefore prayed the court to declare the searches conducted in their home as illegal.
However the EFCC, in its response argued that the suit lacked merit and prayed the court to strike it out.
When the case came up on Monday, the presiding judge, Justice Abdulazeez Anka, upheld the contention of the respondent and thus struck out the application.
The judge in his ruling among other things submitted, “The learned silk for the applicant seemed to have delved into the issue of search warrant at the hearing of the preliminary objection before the substantive suit proper.
“It is my view that the EFCC has the statutory right to investigate and prosecute offenders and in the process searches are imminent. In my view, the legality or otherwise of the searches as well as evidence obtained can be taken up and thrashed when such issues come up for hearing.
“The respondent has exhibited a certified true copy of the search warrant which was obtained from the magistrate court of Lagos, as well as documents recovered. Hence, parties ought to sheath their swords until such evidence are adduced in court when parties will have opportunities of objecting to the admissibility of evidence.
“Approaching the court three days after such search is conducted in other to quash same, will in my view, amount to pre-empting the possible outcome of the criminal trial which is yet to be embarked upon.
“This application to declare the search and seizure of properties illegal, is in my view, akin to pre-empting objection to the admissibility of a document in the main suit. In the light of the above, I hold that the preliminary objection succeeds; this application is hereby struck out.
“Parties have a right of appeal, and I so hold.’’
EFCC carried out the search following its investigating of the applicant of an alleged fraud involving the Office of the then National Security Adviser (ONSA).
In of its claims, the commission said it discovered about $1million which was transferred from the ONSA to Mob Integrated Services, a company belonging to the Obanikoro’s on March 18, 2015.
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