Court Restricts EFCC From Arresting and Further Inviting Innoson’s Lawyer
Innoson Nigeria Ltd, Nigeria’s foremost indigenous Auto Industrialist has expressed its concerns about the new trend in its long running legal battles with GTB (Guarantee Trust Bank Plc.). Innoson Nigeria Ltd is concerned about the interference of EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) in the legal matters in a manner that it has become apparent that EFCC is pursuing the interest of GTB in the pretext of exercising its statutory investigatory powers and curbing of financial crimes and that GTB is pulling strings in the EFCC.
Sometimes in January 2022, EFCC invited Prof. J. N. McCarthy Mbadugha, SAN – counsel to Innoson Nig Ltd- to an interview on 1st February 2022. Mbadugha honoured the invitation. During the interrogation, EFCC showed him the counter affidavit to show cause which his Secretary deposed to and filed on 23rd March 2011 in opposition to GTB’s affidavit to show cause in a matter which has been decided by the Federal Court and the decision of the Federal High Court which has affirmed by the Court of Appeal is presently pending at the Supreme Court- SC. 694/2014.
EFCC told the Learned Silk that the depositions in the counter affidavit to show cause were false and asked him the source of the information. But the learned SAN emphatically told EFCC- its personnel interviewing, embarrassing and humiliating him- that the depositions are true. That it was his client that provided all the information he used in prosecuting the case and that he verily believed his client. The Learned Silk insisted that both the trial court and Court of Appeal found that the depositions in GTB’s affidavit were false and that GTB did not deny the depositions in the counter affidavit of 23rd of March 2011 and that he relies and stands on the judgments of the two courts which have settled the matter and can only be overturned upon appeal and not the needless belated charade of investigation of the truth of the stated facts. EFCC kept him in its custody for over 7 hours.
Subsequently his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, PhD, a renowned Senior Advocate of Nigeria filed, at his instruction, a fundamental human rights suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division against EFCC and 5 other persons which includes GTB.
Consequently, following, an ex parte application at the Federal High Court Abuja by Chief Mike Ozekhome, PhD, SAN praying the court for an ex-parte Order of Injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from inviting, arresting or detaining or keeping in its custody the counsel to Innoson Nigeria Ltd, Prof J. N. Mbadugha SAN, in relation to the frivolous allegations which he knows nothing about pending the hearing and determination of the substantive originating motion. The Federal High Court granted the application and ordered that status quo ante bellum as at 7th February 2022 be maintained until the determination of the originating motion.
The motive behind the renewed interest by the EFCC to launch an investigation in a matter already decided by the courts can only be explained by GTB. This is not the first time that EFCC has chosen to take sides with GTB and allowed itself to be inveigled into matters that are not matters of crime for reasons best known to them in an issue EFCC should stand as an unbiased umpire.
EFCC has constantly taken GTB’s affairs as if it is a National Affair.
First it became biased and took sides with GTB in GTB’s dispute with Innoson and went on to compromise itself until Nigerians raised alarm over its professionalism and as an organization that is supposed to be an unbiased arbiter.
EFCC is a Federal Government Agency, created by Law to fight against financial crimes and provide law and order in the business environment based on objective principles. It is unheard of that counsel who has filed processes to put forth the position of his client as it was related to him in his instruction should thereafter be quizzed on a matter that is not his personal matter and in which he had acted on purely in his professional capacity. It is obvious that the aim of EFCC is to muzzle the mouth of Innoson’s counsel. This time, EFCC has taken the side of subjectivity and dabbled into a frivolous matter thereby wasting public and tax payers’ funds.
The counter affidavit that EFCC is presently investigating was filed in the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division in the matter between Innoson Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Customs Service Board. GTB filed an affidavit to show cause in March 2011 in a garnishee proceedings in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/603/2006 between Innoson Nig Ltd and GTB.
In response, Innoson filed through its Solicitors- McCarthy Mbadugha & Co. – on 23 March 2011 a counter affidavit to the affidavit to show cause. This resulted in GTB filing a further affidavit to show cause and Innoson Nig Ltd filing a reply/further counter affidavit to the further affidavit to show cause
The court after GTB and Innoson joined issues therein and oral arguments by the parties’ lawyers held in its Judgment that GTB “has not disclosed utmost good faith as regards the proceedings…. and that GTB did not sufficiently deny the counter affidavit of 23rd March 2011. To the favour of Innoson, the Court made a Garnishee Order Absolute and ordered GTB to pay the sum of over N2Billion to Innoson Nig. Ltd.
Being dissatisfied, GTB appealed to the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/I/258/2011. However, in a unanimous decision of 6 February 2011, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and affirmed the findings and the trial court’s decision.
The Court of Appeal ordered GTB to pay over N2Billion to Innoson Nigeria Ltd.
Still not satisfied with the Court of Appeal Judgment, GTB approached the Supreme Court and interestingly in a motion on noticed filed at the Supreme Court on 5th February 2016 to amend it’s notice of appeal GTB deposed in a 15 paragraph affidavit in support that Innoson Nigeria Ltd obtained the judgment of the Court of Appeal by fraud and by fraudulent suppression of material facts with a view of using that to have the Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and thus avert paying the judgment debt.
However, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision on 12th May 2017, dismissed GTB’s said motion on notice; and while dismissing the motion, stated inter alia, that GTB engaged in double speaking and in a frivolous frolic.
As the main appeal is yet to be decided by the Supreme Court, the EFCC through the instigation of GTB is currently investigating some aspects of the matters already decided by the courts.
For instance, EFCC through acts of torture and intimidation during its interrogation of Prof J. N. Mbadugha, SAN, the counsel to Innoson Nigeria Ltd, is requesting “the source of information he used in preparing the counter affidavit of 23rd March 2011where and when Prof. Mbadugha, SAN informed EFCC that he got all the information used in prosecuting the case from his client given that he did not instruct himself, the EFCC asked him to bring his client from whom he derived the information.
It must be noted that EFCC has refused to show Prof Mbadugha, SAN a copy of the Petition allegedly written against him, however in the process of opening the file by one Mr Babangida Yahaya, a staff of EFCC, Prof. Mbadugha sighted a letter from GTB which he believed is the petition.
Having since been subjected to endless invitations by EFCC, threats of arrest, mental torture, Prof. Mbadugha, SAN through his Counsel Chief Mike Ozekhome, PhD, SAN approached the FHC Abuja demanding for an enforcement of his fundamental human rights in consequence of which Hon. Justice I.E. Ekwo made the ex parte order of 21st February 2022 pursuant to Prof. Mbadugha, SAN’s ex parte application which was argued by his Counsel- Chief Mike Ozekhome, PhD, SAN
The said order and the originating substantive application have been served on the EFCC and all parties in the action.
At the resumed hearing on 25th February, 2022 in which EFCC and two of its staff who were sued with it and GTB were represented by counsel the learned trial judge – Hon. Justice I. E. Ekwo made a confirmatory or a further order that none of the parties before the court should take any further step in respect of case which includes re-inviting and re-arresting the Applicant. Also, the court made an order for accelerated hearing of the substantive application and adjourned to 29th March, 2022 for hearing.
Head of Corporate Communications and Affairs