Court halts fresh probe into Saraki’s alleged corruption

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Fresh investigation neither personal nor a witch-hunt – Magu

The Federal High Court in Abuja has issued an order restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) from proceeding with their fresh investigation of the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

Others affected by the restraining order issued on Tuesday by Justice Taiwo Taiwo are the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), the inspector general of police and the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.

It would be recalled that the EFCC had recently sealed off five choice properties allegedly belonging to the senate president.

Saraki is suspected to have acquired the houses with state funds while he was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

Besides, the senate president is being probed for his earnings and acquisitions in office as a governor between 2003 and 2011, how a N17 billion bond was spent and how allocations to the state from the federation account were managed.

Saraki who described the seizure as a witch-hunt and battle against a “political enemy” filed two separate fundamental human rights enforcement suits before the court to challenge the decision of the EFCC to seize his houses.

Ruling on an ex parte application filed along with the substantive suit by Saraki, the judge ordered the EFCC and the other five respondents to the suit to stay action on the probe pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed by the applicant.

Taiwo made the order after hearing Saraki’s lawyer Sunday Onubi, who moved the application.

In the ruling, the court likened the restraining order issued on to an order directing the parties to the suit to maintain the status quo in respect of the probe.

Ordering them to suspend the probe, the judge said he granted Saraki’s prayers to avert a situation where the court would be faced with a situation of fait accompli.

He added that granting the order was in line with a settled principled of law that once a suit was filed, all parties to it must refrain from taking any action capable of rendering the suit nugatory.

According to him, the order amounts to an order directing the parties to maintain the status quo.

He added that the law allows such an application to be granted in a situation where the applicant would likely face “hardship” between the time of serving processes in the suit on the respondents and hearing and determination of the suit.

“There is no doubt that the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 is a special proceeding with its stated rules and procedure.

“By the provision of Order 4(3) of the Fundamental Rights Civil Procedure Rules, 2009, the court may, if satisfied that the applicant may be caused  hardship before the service of an application where liberty or life of the applicant is involved hear the application ex parte upon such interim reliefs as the justice of the application may demand.

“There is no doubt that in making the interim reliefs or orders,   the court are guided even in its exercise of its discretion judicially and judiciously applied by the law and statues.

“Here comes in the rules and of course Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

“I am of the view, after due consideration of the aforesaid averment, that this court ought to make the order being sought by the applicant pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion on notice.

“To do otherwise and not to restrain the respondents by asking them not to stay action will result in the court being faced with a fait accompli,” said the judge.

The judge made the same set of orders in the two separate suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/507/2019 and FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2019, filed by Saraki, which were separately argued and ruled upon on Tuesday.

He directed the applicant to serve the court processes on the six respondents who he also directed to file their response within five days of being served.

He adjourned further hearing till May 23, 2019 when the respondents will have the opportunity to challenge the ex parte order by arguing their objection to Saraki’s motion on notice.

Meanwhile, the acting chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu said the fresh probe of the senate is neither personal nor a witch-hunt.

He said the investigation was not different from other investigations carried out by the agency.

He said EFCC would not slow down on the war against corruption, which he described as a national disaster.

Magu who made the pronouncements in an interview with newsmen in Abuja declared:

“Never, never, the EFCC does not witch-hunt. Have I invited you here before? We invite people who have committed crimes and people who are corrupt. If you are not corrupt, you will not be in EFCC. If you are not a 419, Advance Fee Fraud, Yahoo boy or Internet fraudsters, you will not be in EFCC.

“We do our homework very well. Sometimes, we conduct preliminary investigation for up to six months. You will not even know we are investigating you. We have been investigating some people for more than five years and they don’t even know we are doing it.”

Asked to be specific on the latest investigation of Saraki, the EFCC chairman said: “No, no, it (the investigation of Saraki) is not personal. I am not after anybody. I don’t want you to personalize it because it is not different from other investigation we are doing.

“Seriously, I am not slowing down because corruption is a national disaster. Every Nigerian should fight corruption whether you are in Nigeria or outside the country. Corruption is the mother of all evils. If you remove this disaster, you will have a peaceful country.”

He linked insecurity plaguing the country to corruption adding that Boko Haram is being funded with looted funds.

“All these banditry, Boko Haram nuisance, their root is corruption. They are caused by corruption and sustained by corruption.

“If you remove corruption all these nonsense going on in Zamfara and Borno states would stop. Terrorism is being funded with the stolen funds, the laundered funds and it is coming back. That is why it is being sustained because somebody is giving them money. The boys who are behind are being paid by somebody. So, it is very hard for them to come back to the society. Sometimes if they come back, there is no job to be done. So, it attracts other people to join. That is why it gives room for the recruitment of more people to be on the side of the bandits,” he said.

With Punch report and The Nation reports

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