24 February 2016

Nigeria: Rickey Tarfa Withdraws N5 Billion Suit Against MTN, EFCC, Others

The embattled Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Rickey Tarfa has withdrawn the N5billion fundamental rights violation suit he filed against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and four others. The senior lawyer had filed the suit, alleging violation of his right to privacy by the respondents.

Following the withdrawal of the suit, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris awarded a punitive cost of N10, 000 against Tarfa in favour of each of the five respondents.

Apart from the EFCC and its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, the other respondents include Mrs. Rashidatou Abdou, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.

Tarfa had filed the suit following his arrest on February 5 by EFCC operatives on the premises of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, where he allegedly hid two suspects in his car to prevent their arrest.

His two mobile phones and his Mercedez Benz SUV with Registration No. KJA 700 CG, were confiscated by the EFCC.

Tarfa alleged that the respondents violated his right to privacy by allegedly scrutinising his call logs. He therefore urged the court to declare that the respondents violated his right protected by Section 37 of the Constitution, when, without a court order, MTN allegedly made the call log on his mobile line, 08034600000, available to the EFCC and the others respondents, who in turn allegedly released the information to Sahara Reporters and other online media.

He had also urged the court to hold that the respondents acted unlawfully when they accessed his bank details, clients' information, private and confidential information contained in his iPhone 6 and Samsung 6 without a court order or any reasonable cause.

He had urged the court to award N5bn damages against the respondents in his favour, stressing that no amount of money could adequately redress the "unquantifiable and irreparable damage done to him, his reputation, his business and his goodwill."

But a lawyer from his chambers, Olatunde Oladele, appeared before Justice Idris yesterday with an ex parte application to discontinue the case.

Oladele gave no reason for Tarfa's decision to withdraw the case but an inside source confided on The Guardian that the telecommunication giant, already encumbered with crisis, is considering the option of out of court settlement with the senior advocate in order not to add to its existing controversies.

Counsel to EFCC, Mr. Wahab Shittu and Rotimi Oyedepo, who also appeared in court, said they were not opposed to the withdrawal of the suit but urged the court to award a punitive cost against Tarfa.

"My Lord, we have no objection to the discontinuance of the suit but we want the court to award a punitive cost against the applicant; our names have been flying around in the major newspapers since yesterday," Shittu said.

But Oladele argued that the EFCC's lawyers had no right of reply because his application was an ex parte application.

Besides, he said the respondents could not be demanding for cost because Tarfa had not served them with the suit.

But Shittu argued that since the filing of the suit was widely reported in the newspapers, it was tantamount to serving the respondents by substituted means.

In a short ruling, Justice Idris struck out the suit and ordered Tarfa to pay a cost of N10, 000 to each of the respondents.

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