Obansanjo’s ex-minister sues EFCC for ₦1bn over wanted status

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He sought an order for the EFCC to remove his picture, name, references, details and or particulars from the wanted list published on its official website.

Dr Olu Agunloye, former Minister of Power and Steel under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, has filed a ₦1 billion suit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations that it published his name on its website’s wanted list.

Agunloye, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/167/2024 and filed by his team of lawyers led by Adeola Adedipe, SAN, also joined the Attorney-General of Federation (AGF) as 2nd defendant.

The case, presently before Justice Emeka Nwite of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has now been fixed for April 18 for a hearing. The originating summons, dated and filed February 8, was sighted by the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday.

The ex-minister sought six reliefs, including a declaration that the EFCC cannot lawfully exercise its discretion, powers and or functions under Sections 1(2(c, 6, 7, 13 of the EFCC Act, 2004, ditto Section 4 of the Police Act 2020, by declaring him wanted on its official website or any other related platform.

Agunloye said this was without recourse to any safeguard in Sections 34({1)(a), 35, 37, 39, 41 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), including a judicial intervention, order or leave of court under Sections 1(1), 8(1) & 42(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

He, therefore, sought an order for the EFCC, its agents, privies, representatives and other related affiliates to forthwith remove his picture, name, references, details and or particulars from the wanted list published on its official website or any other related platform.

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He also sought a perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC and the AGF, “both jointly or severally, whether by themselves or their staff, from further declaring the plaintiff wanted about the particulars and subject matter of this suit, either on the EFCC official website, newspaper publication or any other related platform, except by a judicial intervention and recourse to all constitutional safeguards available to him in law and equity.

General damages of one billion naira (1, 000, 000, 000 00) against the defendants, especially the 1st defendant

“Cost of this action.”

In the affidavit which he deposed to, Agunloye said he sought a redress and judicial intervention from a court having regard to some very disturbing actions of the anti-graft agency, which he said, ought not to occur under the watch of the AGF, which is the chief law officer of the federation.

He said he sought a judicial determination on the propriety or otherwise, of the exercise of the EFCC’s discretion or power to declare him wanted without recourse to any judicial intervention or relevant constitutional safeguards.

As at the time of filing this suit, my picture, name, particulars and othe details are currently uploaded on the official website of the 1st defendant,” he said.

The plaintiff said he was declared wanted for corruption and forgery. According to him, as a result of this action by the 1st defendant, I have become a subject of ridicule, stripped of my dignity, freedom of movement and even presumption of innocence, concerning a criminal trial which I am currently being prosecuted of, by the 1st defendant.

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He alleged that the deliberate act of the EFCC was orchestrated to negatively project him in the international community.

Agunloye said this was so because sometime from November 2002 to May 2003, while he served as Minister of Power and Steel, he awarded a contract to Messrs Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited for the construction of the Mambila Power Project by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).

“The award of the said contracts followed all the necessary administrative and authoritative due process, obtaining the necessary approval.

“Moreover, since the award of the contract, successive administrations have continued to interface with the company, Sunrise Power and Transmission Limited, so much so that the government entered into a settlement agreement with it over a dispute.

“On an allegation of breach of contract by the company, Sunrise Power and Transmission Limited resorted to taking out an arbitral proceeding before the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, France – in Case No: 26260/SPN/AB/CPB between Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited Vs. FGN

“It is in connection to this arbitral proceeding that the 1st defendant invited me for interrogation on 3 May 2023 and I did honour same on 16 May 2023, despite my frailties and hailing health conditions.

Upon my release on administrative bail, the 1st defendant persisted in hounding me to return for further grilling which I frowned at because I was undergoing serious medical treatment related to heart.

“When the threat and disturbances became alarming, in June 2023, I filed a suit in court to challenge the unnecessary harassment because I was not running away, but only attending to my health with notice to the 1st defendant.

“It was, however, traumatising on the night of Tuesday, 12 December 2023, when I started receiving calls from all around the globe that I had been declared wanted by the 1st defendant.

“Knowing fully well that I was not on the run, I reported at the EFCC headquarters here in Abuja the next day, 13 December 2023 where I was served with a criminal charge and was detained till 18 December, 2023.

“On 10 January, 2024, I was arraigned in court and admitted to bail on 11th January, 2024, because I am presumed innocent of all the criminal allegations,” he averred.

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Agunloye said even though the law presumes him innocent of the criminal charge, EFCC continued with the unlawful publication on its website. He described the action of the anti-graft agency as “arbitrariness, oppression, violation of its statutory powers and functions and unlawful.”

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