An Abuja High Court Judge, Justice Peter Affen, has berated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly intimidating his court and for attempting to stall a case involving it and an Austrian Security contractor, Mr. Wolfgang Wolfgang Reinl, who sued the anti-graft agency for N2 billion for allegedly detaining him since last year without trial.
Mr. Reinl was detained since December last year by the commission in connection with the ongoing trial of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
Mr. Reinl, a security consultant was picked up by the EFCC on 28 December, 2015, and his travel documents, phones and other materials were confiscated without an order of a court.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr. Afam Osigwe, had approached the Federal Capital Territory High Court for the enforcement of his client’s fundamental human rights, but the EFCC through its counsel, Mr. Ibrahim Audu, told the court that the EFCC never detained Mr. Reinl, let alone seize his belongings.
He said it was a “mere Litigation Secretary” in the EFCC that deposed to an affidavit indicating the detention of the plaintiff, saying Mr. Reinl was never detained.
The lawyer further informed the court that the said “Litigation Secretary” was not part of the interrogators or the arresting party, hence, he could not have been in the know of what transpired.
But the plaintiff’s lawyer insisted that two police detectives, CSP Sharo and Mr. Madaki had arrested his client and that the respondents have not denied that the two officers worked for the commission or denied that he was released upon a bond executed that whenever he is needed, he must oblige.
However, rather than allow the plaintiff to prove his case, the EFCC urged the court to dismiss it for gross incompetence and for the court’s lack of jurisdiction.
The commission said having cross-checked its register, there was no evidence showing that it ever arrested the applicant.
The proceedings however took a twist when EFCC lawyer filed a preliminary objection to Mr. Reinl’s application.
Justice Affen, who reserved ruling on the preliminary objection to a later date yet to be decided, said the plaintiff has a right to sue.
But the EFCC insisted that the plaintiff has no right or any fundamental right to claim before the court.
Apparently uncomfortable with the use of words by the EFCC lawyer, the Judge became enraged and told the EFCC not to wear the court out by dwelling on inanities.
Justice Affen lambasted the EFCC for attempting to intimidate the court, warning the commission to drop its toga of arrogance before approaching his court.
“You are in court and I am the Dominis Litis here. This is not EFCC office. You must comport yourself. The problem is that you people (EFCC) have too much physical power and you carry it to everywhere you go.
“This is not a motor park and you must not be throwing your hands anyhow and be shouting. When you come before me, you will never remain the same. You owe the court a duty of deference. Leave your policeman or EFCC powers at the door. Didn’t they teach you that in Law School?”, the Judge queried, saying it is wrong for people to raise all manners of objections to scuttle cases.
Justice Affen averred that rather than relying on the affidavit deposed to by the Litigation Secretary, the two arresting officers should be the ones trying to convince the court as to whether they picked and detained Mr. Wolfgang or otherwise.
The plaintiff had among others, sought declaration that his arrest and detention by EFCC since the 28 December, 2015 is unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal and a violation of his fundamental rights guaranteed by Section 35(1) & (4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A Declaration that the restriction/confinement placed on him by the Respondents by keeping him in their custody since December 28, 2015 is unlawful, unconstitutional and direct infraction of the rights of the Applicant to freedom of movement as guaranteed by section 41 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
A Declaration that his continued detention by the respondents without informing him of his offence in writing is unlawful, unconstitutional and an infraction of the Applicant’s rights as guaranteed by section 35(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
A Declaration that the refusal to release him until he admits laundering undisclosed amount of money or any sum whatsoever is unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal and a violation of the Applicant’s Fundamental Rights as guaranteed by section 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
He therefore prayed for an order of injunction restraining the Respondent whether by itself, servants, privies, agents or whosoever purporting to act on its behalf from violating or further violating his fundamental rights as guaranteed by section 34 (1) 35, (1)& (4) and 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
The plaintiff also demanded a sum of N2 billion as exemplary and aggravated damages for the infraction of his fundamental rights.
Mr. Reinl also asked the court for an order restraining the Respondent whether by itself, servants, privies, agents or whosoever purporting to act on its behalf from violating or further violating his Fundamental Rights through prolonged detention or upon such terms as this honourable court may deem appropriate in the circumstances, pending the determination of this suit.
Plaintiff further asked the court to order EFCC to tender a public apology to him the Applicant and also to order the immediate release of his international passport confiscated by the agency.
In an affidavit in support of the suit, the plaintiff claimed to be an Austrian national married to a Nigerian woman and was arrested by the operatives of the Respondent on 28 December, 2015.
He averred that the respondent detained him from December 28, 2015 and did not release him from its custody until the 5th day of February, 2016.
He also claimed that on the 28th day of December, 2015 about five men who stormed his residence situate at No. 10 Ontario Crescent, Maitama Abuja, introduced themselves as operatives of the Respondent and informed him they had a search warrant to search his house as well as take him to their office in Abuja that same day.
Plaintiff said he informed the respondent’s operatives that the award of the contract being investigated had in fact been verified by the Office of the National Security Adviser which had in fact assured him that outstanding contracts sums due and owing to companies he had interest in would be paid.
He said that in the course of the investigation the respondent invited personnel of various agencies which submitted documents and pictures which showed that the contracts had in fact been executed.
He said that the investigation also revealed that his companies had received far less money than they were being owed by the Federal Government.
He also claimed that the presentation of his medical report did not dissuade the respondent from continuing his prolonged detention in a very uncomfortable and undignified over-crowded cell at their office.
Besides, he said the order for his arrest was made even though he had committed no offence or done anything for which his arrest could be ordered.
Plaintiff also claimed that he was not brought before a Magistrate Court or other court for remand order in line with statutory requirement of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
He also alleged that the respondent’s operatives also confiscated his brother-in-law’s two phones, also insisted they would only release the phones to his wife if she gave them his pass-words to also enable them ‘analyze’ the phones, his emails, text messages and all data stored therein.