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Obanikoro, family lose suit against EFCC

THE Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday struck out a N100 million suit filed by a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and his family against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over seizure and detention of their property.The plaintiffs asked for a declaration that the forceful seizure of their personal effects last June 14 constitutes a gross violation of their rights. They demanded an “unreserved public apology”, as well as N100 million general damages.Justice Abdullazeez Anka held that he would not be justified to nullify the search warrant on the basis of which EFCC acted as the things seized could be used as evidence by the commission during a possible “imminent prosecution of the applicants by the respondent in a criminal court”.He said nullifying the search warrant would amount to shutting out the respondent, which has a statutory power to investigate and prosecute persons involved in economic and financial crimes.The applicants include Obanikoro’s wife Moroophat, his sons Gbolahan and Babajide, and his wife Fati.EFCC claimed Obanikoro received suspicious payments from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) through companies linked to the family.But, the family, though their lawyer Lawal Pedro (SAN), said the documents and properties EFCC seized “have nothing to do with the ONSA.”Justice Abdulazeez Anka held: “The gist of the applicant’s case as contained in the affidavit in support is that the EFCC which is investigating the offence of fraud involved in the office of the then National Security Adviser, discovered large sums of monies paid into various companies, whose signatories are the third and fourth applicant.“Subsequently, the commission applied to a Lagos State Magistrate Court for a search warrant of the applicants’ house, with a view to recovering the incriminating items that will aid investigation.“What I can deduce from the argument of the learned SAN is the alleged illegality of the search, as well as evidences adduced. The question however is whether at this stage,  the court can be justified in declaring the said search as unlawful.“In my view, the legality or otherwise of the searches as well as evidences obtained can be taken up and thrashed when such issues comes up for hearing.“The test to be applied in determining whether an evidence is admissible is relevance; if such evidence is admissible, the court is not concerned how it was obtained.

“The respondent has exhibited a certified true copy of the search warrant as obtained from the Magistrate Court of Lagos, as well as documents recovered.“Hence, parties ought to sheath their swords until such evidences are adduced in court when parties will have opportunity of objecting to the admissibility of evidences.“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 holds.”The EFCC claimed that it searched the Obanikoro’s home while investigating an alleged fraudulent payment of the sums of N46,219,950,239.25 and $33,296,548,50 paid by ONSA to various companies without any accompanying contractual agreements and approvals.Among the beneficiaries are Sylvan McNamara Ltd. to which Obanikoro’s children, Gbolahan and Babajide, alongside Mr. Ikenne Ezekwe and Mrs. Theresa Matuluko, were signatories, EFCC said.The Nation

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