21 December 2012

Nigeria: EFCC Declares Audu Wanted As Ex-Governor Seeks Court Protection

Photo: http://www.vanguard.com
Former Governor Abubakar Audu.

Abuja — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Thursday declared former governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu, wanted in connection with offences bordering on conspiracy, stealing and misappropriation of public funds during his reign as governor between 1999 and 2003.

However, Audu has applied to a Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the anti-graft commission from arresting him.

Audu is asking the court to stop the EFCC from launching fresh legal offensive against him on the grounds that it amounted to "an abuse of court process."

In his originating summons filed by his counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), he asked the court to put an end to "an abuse of court process" by stopping the EFCC from commencing any fresh process of investigation or prosecution against him in respect of his tenure as governor of Kogi State between May, 1999 and May, 2003 since he had already been charged on an 80-count charge currently pending at the Kogi State High Court in Lokoja.

Audu is praying the court to declare that the EFCC's letter No: CR: 3000/EFCC/ABJ/ISOS/ TM.11/VOL. 7/37 dated December 11, 2012, inviting him to be interviewed by one Kabiru A. Shehu on an undisclosed ongoing investigative activities involving the plaintiff, with a view to re-arraigning him before a court in Abuja in the face of a pending charge duly initiated by the same respondent at the High Court of Justice presided over by Justice S. T. Hussaini with respect to the same offences allegedly committed by the plaintiff during the same period of the plaintiff's tenure as governor amounts to a gross abuse of the process of court.

He also sought a declaration that he could not legally be arraigned or prosecuted by the commission or any other person or authority within the country in respect of offences allegedly committed during his tenure as governor of Kogi State between May 1999 and May 2003 when there is subsisting a charge pending before the state High Court, Lokoja .

He alleged that the same offences committed during the same period and arising from same facts were pending.

The former governor also seeks "a declaration that the unlawful invasion of his residence in early hours of December 11, 2012 without any prior invitation and without a valid search warrant or warrant of arrest, under the pretext of arresting him and the subsequent wide publicity accorded the invasion by the respondent in the print, electronic and internet media without any prior invitation to the effect amounts to undue sensationalsim, humiliation, intimidation, and invasion of his right to privacy and family life contrary to the provisions of Sections 37 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and is therefore illegal, wrongful, irregular, null and void."

Audu also wants the court to hold that the Supreme Court decision delivered on November 23, 2012 overruling his appeal did not effectively and finally terminate his trial on the - 80 count charge at the High Court of Justice, Lokoja.

Consequently, the former governor has prayed for "an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondent whether by itself, servant, agents, employees, privies and or persons working for and on its behalf howsoever from inviting, arresting, detaining or arraigning and or taking any step thereto against the plaintiff on a charge or charges alleging offences purportedly committed by the plaintiff during his tenure as governor of Kogi State between May, 1999 and May, 2003 in the face of charge No: EFCC / 1 / 2006, FRN vs Abubakar Audu, pending and extant before the Kogi State High Court, Lokoja presided over by Hon. Justice S. T Hussaini and also pending and extant before the Court of Appeal, Abuja in Appeal No: CA/A /381c/2011 over which the trial court has since the 12th of July, 2012 granted a stay of proceedings."

He also wants the court to award the sum of M100 million only representing damages for the unlawful, illegal, wrongful and unconstitutional invasion of plaintiff's privacy, home and family life.

In a 31-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, the deponent, Dominic Ezerioha, averred that "it will amount to usurpation of the judicial functions of the Court of Appeal for the EFCC to arraign the Audu on the same alleged offences that are currently the subject matter before the Court of Appeal, Abuja."

Ezerioha also averred that "it is a breach of the plaintiff's fundamental right to privacy and family life to be invaded by the respondent without even as much as a mere prior invitation or notice."

No date has been fixed for hearing.

However, in a statement made available by EFCC's Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, the commission said the decision to declare Audu wanted "followed the failure of the suspect to respond to invitation by the anti- graft agency."

Uwujaren recounted that "attempt by the EFCC to arrest Audu at his 32, Sulaiman Barau Street , Asokoro, Abuja residence on December 11, 2012 failed as he allegedly evaded arrest."

He said the former governor was alleged to have fraudulently enriched himself to the tune of over N4 billion while he held sway as governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003.

The move to arrest the ex- governor followed a Supreme Court ruling of November 23, 2012, which dismissed his appeal to continue to protract his corruption trial by EFCC.

"The commission implores any one having useful information about the whereabouts of the suspect to notify its offices in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Lagos , Kano and Enugu or report at the nearest police station," Uwujaren added.

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