Corruption and Underdevelopment

Absence of judge delays Saraki’s suit against EFCC, ICPC, others

By Paul Michael

Hearing in a suit filed by former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others could not proceed this week due to the absence of the presiding judge.

Though the two separate suits were on number five and six on the day’s cause list, Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja was said to be on another official engagement.

The matters were consequently fixed for October 5 for further mention.

The court had, on May 12, fixed June 27 for the suits.

Justice Ekwo had adjourned the matter to enable parties file and exchange their processes in the suit.

The development followed non-appearance of counsel for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respondents in the case.

While Saraki is the applicant, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Inspector-General of Police (IGP), and State Security Service (SSS) are 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

Others are EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as 4th to 6th respondents respectively.

According to reports EFCC had, in 2019, said it would probe Saraki’s earnings between 2003 and 2011 when he was governor of Kwara.

The commission was reported to have seized some of his houses in the Ikoyi area of Lagos then.

However, Saraki, on May 10, 2019, filed two separate suits marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/507/19 and FHC/ABJ/CS/508/19 respectively before Justice Taiwo Taiwo to challenge the action of the EFCC.

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Justice Taiwo, who was the presiding judge, ruled on an ex parte application filed along with the substantive suits.

The judge ordered the anti-corruption agency (4th respondent) and the other five respondents to the suits to stay action on the probe pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed by the applicant.

The order was granted after Sunday Onubi, Saraki’s lawyer, moved the application, on May 14, 2019.

The court had directed the parties to maintain the status quo by suspending the probe.

But the EFCC later applied that the judge should recuse himself and the matter be transferred to another court.

Justice Taiwo sent back the case file to the chief judge and the matter was reassigned to Justice Anwuli Chikere for adjudication.

When the matter came up on July 14, 2021 before Justice Chikere, EFCC Counsel, Chile Okoronkwo, complained that Taiwo’s order had hindered the agency “from performing its duty for about two years now.”

The lawyer, who stated that Saraki continued to hinge on the order of the court any time he is invited, urged the court to vacate the order.

But the suits were reassigned to Justice Ekwo following the retirement of Chikere.

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