-Erstwhile Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, who allegedly stashed over N3billion at his guest house situated at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna State, has dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before the Federal High Court in Abuja, demanding public apology and N1billion as damages for his continued detention.
Yakubu was Group Managing Director of the NNPC between 2012 and 2014. He was sacked by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan for alleged insubordination and corruption.
It will be recalled that EFCC operatives raided his house following a tip-off by a whistle-blower.
The agency disclosed that it had in the course of the operation, discovered the sum of $9.7m and £74,000 that Yakubu hid in a fireproof safe inside the house.
Kano Division of the high court earlier granted an order of forfeiture of the recovered money to the Federal Government, a decision which Yakubu had through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, asked the court to set aside and return the seized money to him.
Aside insisting that the alleged recovered loot was an accumulation of monetary gifts that were given to him overtime, the former NNPC boss queried the territorial jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Kano to award ownership of the money to FG.
Meanwhile, following his continued detention, Yakubu, lodged a fresh suit against the anti-graft agency before the Abuja Division of the high court, claiming that his fundamental human rights were violated.
In an application he filed pursuant to Order 8 Rule 4 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, Yakubu, prayed the court to declare that he was entitled to dignity of his person, personal liberty, freedom of movement, private and family life as encapsulated in the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
He urged the court to declare that his continued detention by the EFCC without being charged to court or being allowed to complete his medical check-up in the United Kingdom amounted to a violation of his personal rights.
Consequently, among other things, he prayed the court to not only order his immediate release from EFCC custody, but to equally issue order of perpetual injunction restraining the agency from further detaining him unlawfully.
More so, he wants the court to order the EFCC and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who are respondents in the suit, to tender a public apology to him in two widely published national newspapers for the violation of his rights.
Nevertheless, EFCC, in a counter-affidavit it filed before the court, sought a dismissal of the suit which it said was grossly vexatious and incompetent.
The agency, in an affidavit deposed to by one of its operatives, Mr. Waziri Adamu, told the court that it was still investigating Yakubu’s involvement in other acts of official corruption, stressing that the recovered loot were not “ mere gifts”, but proceeds of crime.
It told the court that the applicant was a public officer who was expressly barred from accepting that kind of monetary gift under any guise, adding that the search at Yakubu’s house was conducted on the basis of a validly signed warrant.
The agency therefore prayed the court to reject the application in the interest of justice, saying the former NNPC boss was capable of truncating its ongoing investigations if released from custody.
Meantime, trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed has adjourned the matter until March 9 for hearing.
Yakubu had argued that FG lacked the right to take possession of the money recovered from his house on the basis of the February 13 forfeiture order which he said the court made without jurisdiction.
According to him, the court was bereft of the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the motion that culminated to the forfeiture order since it related to a crime that was alleged committed in Abuja.
Raji, SAN, contended that going by section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, an offence should be tried only by a court exercising jurisdiction in the area or place where the offence was committed.
“No aspect of the perceived offence in respect of which the Order of February 13, 2017 was made, was committed within the Kano judicial division of this Honourable Court”, Raji argued.
He further maintained that FG lacked the locus-standi to seek the interim order of the court for the money to be forfeited to it.
“By Section 28 of the EFCC Act, only the commission, i.e. the EFCC has the vires to seek an order for the interim forfeiture of property under the Act.
“The power of this Honourable Court to make interim forfeiture order(s) pursuant to sections 28 & 29 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 (herein after referred to a “EFCC Act”) is applicable only to alleged offences charged under the EFCC Act and not to offences cognizable under any other law.
“The ex-parte order of this honourable court dated February 13, 2017, was made in respect of alleged offences under the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission Act (herein after “ICPC Act”) and not the EFCC Act as prescribed by section 28 & 29 thereof.
“The conditions precedent to the grant of an interim forfeiture order under sections 28 & 29 of the EFCC Act were not complied with by the Applicant (FG) before the Order was made”, he submitted.