Posted by News Express | 8 July 2013 | 6,206 times
US-based lawyer Emeka Ugwuonye today recorded a victory against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in his billion-naira suit against the Commission and the Nigerian Government. In a preliminary ruling when the case came up this morning, Honourbale Justice J. T. Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Lagos, upheld Ugwuonye’s claim of threat and intimidation against the EFCC and ordered the anti-graft agency to henceforth remove the slogan “EFCC ….Will get you anywhere, anytime!” from its letterhead used for official correspondence.
Ugwuonye is asking for a billion naira in the substantive suit in which he accused the Nigerian Government and EFCC of abuse of his rights, unlawful detention and threat to life in connection with his 2011 detention at the instigation of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, USA.
When the Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1313/2011 came up for hearing today, Ugwuonye complained bitterly about EFCC’s letter of last Friday, July 5, in which it requested the court for an adjournment. The EFCC’s letter bore the standard slogan: “EFCC ….Will get you anywhere, anytime!”
While this slogan has been used by the EFCC all these years, no Nigerian lawyer had ever challenged it.
Ugwuonye who appeared for himself in court today took the EFCC to task on a number of issues, including the use of such slogan in a correspondence meant for the court and for a party opponent in a lawsuit against the EFCC. He argued that such slogan conveyed threat and intimidation and was an impermissible interference in the fair administration of justice. He argued that the EFCC is a blatant bully that must not be allowed to play God.
“Before the court of justice, all parties must be equal and none should have the power to threaten the other,” Ugwuonye insisted. He also asked for a cost of N250,000 for his return ticket to the United States to be awarded against the EFCC. He argued that the EFCC had wasted his time and ought to pay for his ticket.
Honourbale Justice J. T. Tsoho, after listening to Ugwuonye’s blistering argument, agreed with him in most parts. The Justice, in his ruling said: “I find the argument of Mr. Ugwuonye apt.” He therefore found that the EFCC’s slogan connoted threat and intimidation. And he ordered EFCC to take such slogan out from all communications relating to court business in the future, and particularly his court. The Judge, however, declined to award costs as requested by Ugwuonye, while taking judicial notice of the matter.
A legal analyst who spoke with News Express said: “This decision, as innocuous as it may appear, may have serious legal ramifications for EFCC’s cases. On the relatively minor end of the chain of consequences for the order is the fact that it has rendered tons of EFCC’s letter-headed paper, which bear this now objectionable slogan, largely useless. In addition, that will likely force EFCC into printing new letter-headed papers. At the more serious end of the chain of consequences is the fact that the court having determined that this slogan connoted threat and intimidation and should not be used in court business, there could now be an opening to challenge all previous EFCC convictions where that slogan was rampantly used in correspondence with witnesses and the accused persons. This may very well be Ugwuonye’s ultimate goal, to set in motion a process to fundamentally challenge the EFCC, which he has repeatedly referred to as the most corrupt agency and the greatest abuser of rights in Nigeria.”
When contacted by News Express on this matter, Ugwuonye said: “The EFCC is just a nasty bully that has to be stopped on its track.”
Asked why other Nigerian lawyers never challenged the EFCC on this matter, Ugwuonye replied: “I can’t speak for any other lawyer. Many of them are scared. Maybe they are afraid that the EFCC could harass them if they spoke out. One can understand the challenges many of the lawyers in this country face. Most of them have never lived in a free society before. Most of them have spent their lives in Nigeria where the police could stop you in the streets and demand money and beat you up if you don’t pay, and nothing would happen. Otherwise, anyone who has spent time in a free society would find most things done by the EFCC and the police objectionable.”
•Photo shows EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Lamorde.
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