By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, held that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was bereft of the powers to arrest former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and spokesman of Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, for allegedly peddling false news on social media without recourse to the due process of the law.
The court, in a judgment delivered by Justice John Tsoho, said the duo were entitled to the enforcement of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
It will be recalled that the anti-graft agency had threatened to move against both Fani-Kayode and Odumakin, for allegedly originating a false post that its operatives had in January, raided the Abuja home of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
In a bid to foil their planned arrest, Fani-Kayode and Odumakin approached the high court for protection, alleging plot by security agencies to infringe on their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Meanwhile, delivering judgment on the matter, Justice Tsoho noted that though the defendants were empowered to carry out their constitutional mandate, he said such powers must be exercised in accordance with provisions of the law.
The court held that EFCC’s public declaration to arrest Fani-Kayode and Odumakin on the basis that they spread false rumour, amounted to breach of their fundamental rights enshrined in Section 34(a) 35(1) (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution.
The court said the defendants, especially the EFCC, must refrain from issuing threats of unlawful arrest.
However, Justice Tsoho refused to compel the anti-graft agency to tender unreserved apology to the applicants, even as it equally declined to award them N20 million as damages for the unlawful threat to arrest them.
Specifically, the Applicants had in their suit, prayed the court for, “A declaration that the Respondent’s public declaration to arrest the Applicants on the bases of spreading false rumours is an infringement of the Applicants rights and breach of their fundamental rights enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended).
“An order enforcing the Applicants’ fundamental rights and ordering the Respondents to stop issuing threat of unlawful arrest.
“An order of injunction protecting the Applicants from indiscriminate arrest by restraining the Respondents from threatening, harassing, intimidating, inviting, arresting or detaining the Applicants, by the Respondents, their privies or agents.”