Thursday, June 13, 2024

Ex-minister Agunloye sues EFCC, demands N1 billion for declaring him wanted

Mr Agunloye alleged that the deliberate act of the EFCC was orchestrated to project him negatively in the international community.

• March 1, 2024

Olu Agunloye, a former Minister of Power and Steel under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, has filed a N1 billion suit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations that it published his name on its website’s wanted list.

Mr Agunloye, in the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/167/2024 and filed by his team of lawyers led by Adeola Adedipe (SAN), also joined the Attorney-General of Federation (AGF) as the second defendant.

The case before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has now been fixed for April 18 for hearing.

The ex-minister sought six reliefs, including a declaration that the EFCC cannot lawfully exercise its discretion, powers and or functions under sections 1(2\(c\, 6, 7, 13 of the EFCC Act, 2004, ditto section 4 of the Police Act 2020, by declaring him wanted on its official website or any other related platform.

Mr Agunloye said this was without recourse to any safeguard in sections 34({1)(a), 35, 37, 39, 41 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), including a judicial intervention, order or leave of court pursuant to sections 1(1), 8(1) & 42(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

He, therefore, sought an order for the EFCC, its agents, privies, representatives and other related affiliates to forthwith remove his picture, name, references, details and or particulars from the wanted list published on its official website or any other related platform.

He also sought a perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC and the AGF, “both jointly or severally, whether by themselves or their staff, from further declaring the plaintiff wanted in relation to the particulars and subject matter of this suit, either on the EFCC official website, newspaper publication or any other related platform, except by a judicial intervention and recourse to all constitutional safeguards available to him in law and equity.

“General damages of one billion naira (N1,000,000,000:00) against the defendants, especially the first defendant.”

In the affidavit which he deposed to, Mr Agunloye said he sought a redress and judicial intervention from the court concerning some actions of the anti-graft agency, which he said ought not to occur under the watch of the AGF, who is the chief law officer of the federation.

He said he sought a judicial determination on the propriety or otherwise of exercising the EFCC’s discretion or power to declare him wanted without recourse to any judicial intervention or relevant constitutional safeguards.

“As at the time of filing this suit, my picture, name, particulars and other details are currently uploaded on the official website of the first defendant,” he said.

The plaintiff said he was declared wanted for corruption and forgery.

He said that as a result of the action by the first defendant, “I have become a subject of ridicule, stripped of my dignity, freedom of movement and even presumption of innocence, with respect to a criminal trial which I am currently being prosecuted of, by the first defendant.”

Mr Agunloye alleged that the deliberate act of the EFCC was orchestrated to project him negatively in the international community.

He said this was so because sometime from November 2002 to May 2003, while he served as Minister of Power and Steel, he awarded a contract to Messrs Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited for the construction of the Mambila Power Project by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).

On December 12, 2023, the commission declared Mr Agunloye wanted over his role in the $6 billion Mambilla hydropower contract.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had accused Mr Agunloye of mismanaging the power project during his tenure from 1999 to 2003 and failed to brief him on the state of the project.

Mr Agunloye, however, denied the allegations, stressing that the nature of the initial contract for the project was awarded as a Build, Operate and Transfer contract in May 2003 under his watch.

The ex-minister said it was traumatising for EFCC to declare him wanted, “Knowing fully well that I was not on the run, I reported at the EFCC headquarters here in Abuja the next day, December 13, 2023, where I was served with a criminal charge and was detained till December 18, 2023.

“On January 10, 2024, I was arraigned in court and admitted to bail on January 11, 2024, because I am presumed innocent of all the criminal allegations,” he averred.

Mr Agunloye said even though the law presumes him innocent of the criminal charge, EFCC continued with the unlawful publication on its website.

He described the action of the anti-graft agency as “arbitrariness, oppression, violation of its statutory powers and functions and unlawful.”


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