Court dismisses Agunloye’s rights violation suit against EFCC

Justice Obiora Egwuatu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, March 18, 2024 dismissed an application of former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Ogunloye, alleging abuse of his fundamental rights and seeking to be shielded from investigation and prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Ogunloye, in the application, sought the pronouncement of the court against his invitation, interrogation and prosecution by the EFCC in connection with the alleged award of N6billion contract in 2003 to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited , SPTCL, in his capacity   as Minister of Power  and Steel without the approval of the Federal Executive Council.

Additionally, he is also standing trial for allegedly receiving  the sum of N3,600,000.00 (Three Million Six Hundred Thousand Naira) through his Guaranty Trust Bank account no.0022530926 from Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (SPTCL) in 2019.

In a twist, the former minister instituted a matter of rights violation against the Commission, claiming that his invitation and interrogation was “arbitrary, malicious, unconstitutional, unlawful and constitute a gross violation” of his right to “dignity of human person, personal liberty and freedom of movement.”

He further prayed the court “to restrain the EFCC from arresting, detaining, harassing, further inviting, interrogating, or inviting in order to arrest and or detain him with respect to the award of contract to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited.”

However, counsel to the EFCC, Abba Muhammed, in a counter-affidavit informed the court that the EFCC was statutorily empowered by law to cause investigations to be conducted “as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed any economic and financial crime.”

The EFCC counsel further argued that the Commission was simply investigating the role the applicant played in the award of the Mambila Project to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company.

The Commission, through its counsel disclosed that Ogunloye curiously jumped the administrative bail it granted him on self-recognition, which he backed with a voluntary undertaking to provide a surety on or before May 19, 2023.

“The applicant refused to return to the office of the respondent on 19 May, 2023, as undertaken by him, instead he vanished and later served the respondent with his application for enforcement of fundamental rights on the 22 June, 2023 pending before this honorable court thereby seeking to be shielded from criminal investigation by this honorable court.”

Justice Egwuatu in his ruling dismissed the fundamental right suit against the EFCC and awarded a cost of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) in favour of the Commission against Oguloye.

While noting that Ogunloye’s fundamental human right was not bridged and that the investigation conducted by the EFCC was in line the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and provisions of the EFCC Act, 2004, the judge commended the EFCC for the civility with which it treated Ogunloye and advised him to stop evading criminal investigation of the Commission as there was no fundamental right against criminal investigation.

The EFCC is prosecuting Agunloye on seven-count charges, bordering on fraudulent award of contract and official corruption to the tune of N6billion.

He was arraigned on Wednesday, January 10,  2024 before Justice J.O. Onwuegbuzie of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT,  High Court, Apo, Abuja.

Culled from EFCC