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Court gives EFCC 72-hour ultimatum to declare asset recovered from Cecilia Ibru

By on February 22, 2013

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Friday, gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, a three-day ultimatum to furnish an applicant with details of the property recovered from Cecilia Ibru.

The applicant, Boniface Okezie, President of the Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, had urged the court to compel the anti graft agency to provide him with the details of the asset it recovered from the former Oceanic Bank Managing Director.

Justice Mohammed Idris also ordered the Attorney General of the Federation, who was joined in the suit, to abide by the judgment.

Mr. Okezie instituted his suit in December 2012, under the Freedom of Information, FOI, Act, praying the court to compel the commission to disclose the total cash and value of property recovered from Mrs. Ibru.

The applicant also sought to ascertain the whereabouts of the recovered asset, as well as the quantity of the asset that had been returned to Oceanic Bank and its shareholders.

Mr. Okezie also sought to know the source and amounts paid by the EFCC for the prosecution of former bank Chiefs in Nigeria, the list of criminal prosecutions carried out by the EFCC through private lawyers, and the reason for not utilising the commission’s lawyers.

He also sought an order compelling the Attorney General of the Federation to disclose the list of criminal prosecutions carried out by the Ministry of Justice through private lawyers, the reason for using private lawyers, and the cost of hiring the private lawyers.

In his ruling, Mr. Idris held that the FOI Act requires all public institutions to disclose information about their structure and process. The judge granted all the applicant’s prayers.

“By the provision of the FOI Act, where an information is sought, public institutions are required to deliver same within seven days,” Mr. Idris said.

“Where, however, it declines, it must elicit valid grounds for its refusal in writing to the applicant within seven days.

“In the extant suit, it appears that the AG (Attorney General) had not declined to provide the required information, but had sought for adequate time within which to collate the required information and serve same on the applicant, whereas, the EFCC had bluntly refused to comply,” Mr. Idris continued.

“I am of the view that on receipt of the plaintiff’s request, the EFCC had a duty to respond, but in this case they simply kept mute.

“Let me say that none of the defendants has such powers under the law.

“The EFCC had failed to file any counter affidavit stating the reasons for its failure to avail the plaintiff with the required information,” he added.

The judge also held that the EFCC had not shown that it is protecting the disclosure of an information that will constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the privacy of individuals in the agency, or that would contaminate its court proceedings.

“I am of the view in this case, that none of the information required by the plaintiff threatens the national security,” he said.

“The FOI Act is meant to promote democracy, transparency, justice and development.

“It is designed to change how government works, because we all like Nigerians, have resolved that it should no longer be business as usual.

“Therefore, every public institution “must” prepare itself for a full implementation of the FOI Act; and the judiciary has no choice but to comply with the enforcement of the act,” he added.


[Premium Times]