Human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) has urged Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos to vacate his ordered directing the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N75 million discovered in his Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) account.
Ozekhome is arguing that the application for an order for interim attachment/forfeiture of his account was done in bad faith by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which he said did not comply with the statutory and judicial authorities in obtaining an interim order vide motion ex parte.
Justice Anka maked the order on February 7 this year followed an application by the EFCC, which prayed the court to freeze Ozakhome’s account temporarily on the ground that the N75 million was suspected to be proceed of crime.
In his counter-affidavit, Ozekhome is asking the court for an order discharging and/or vacating forthwith, the interim order made ex-parte, which ordered an interim order of forfeiture to freeze or attach the money for 120 days.
The lawyer also wants an order restraining the Federal Government and the EFCC, whether by themselves, their operatives, agents, servants, and/or privies howsoever, from dealing in anyway and manner as to the operation or the proprietary rights of the ownership of the account.
Ozekhome said the respondent allegedly suppressed material facts in obtaining the order, therefore, the action is unconstitutional as same offends sections 36, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution as there was no legal justification for EFCC’s action.
He also argued that “The Applicant’s family, staff, dependants, associates, business and livelihood will greatly suffer, and are already suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable damage if this application is not granted, and the blockade or freezing of the account lifted immediately.
“The interest of justice demands that these prayers be granted as it will ensure that the Applicant and his family, staff, associates, livelihood, dependants and business do not suffer untold and irreparable damages,” Ozekhome submitted.
The senior advocate said EFCC’s application and the subsequent order were based on non-compliance with the court’s rules and judicial authorities regulating the grant of ex-parte application.
He argued that the entire application leading to the grant of the interim order ex parte amounts to forum shopping and was calculated to overreach him.
Ozekhome said the N75million was part-payment of legal fees from Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayode.
“The issue of whether or not the funds in Governor Fayose’s account from which the N75 Million was posted to Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers GT Bank account is suspected proceed of crime is currently on appeal as filed and entered by the self-same Counsel to the respondent herein, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa,” Ozekhome said.
Ozekhome also filed an affidavit of urgency deposed to by a lawyer in his firm Chimaobi Onuigbo, praying that that the case be heard urgently.
“The motion on notice seeking to discharge and/or vacate the said interim order of this honourable court on 7th February, 2017, requires urgent hearing and determination, as the continued freezing of Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers’ account renders the chambers impecunious and unable to carry out the day to day activities of the firm,” he said.
The lawyer said the temporary freezing of his account has caused Ozekhome “untold embarrassment, public odium, obloquy and mental agony as the respondent gave very wide publicity to the said freezing or attachment in print, electronic and social media, thus giving the wrong impression that he has committed a criminal offence against the laws of the land.”
On the materials facts EFCC allegedly suppressed, the lawyer maintained that EFCC did not disclose to Justice Anka the fact that Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti, had de-frozen Fayose’s accounts forthwith, thereby allowing the governor to operate them, before Fayose transferred N75 million to Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers account.
He also claimed that as at the time Fayose transferred N75million to his chambers account, there was no court processes filed or served on the applicant, indicating that the EFCC was on appeal, or asking the court to stay the execution of the order de-freezing Fayose’s account.
Ozekhome further averred that, “The applicant did not state that the order of court was served on Zenith Bank and that the money was transferred with the full co-operation of the Bank who was the 2nd Defendant at all material times.
“Fayose, had himself withdrawn the sum of N5,000,000.00 in cash before transferring the sum of N75,000,000.00 to the account of Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers,” he said.
Ozekhome said the rules regulating ex-parte applications were blatantly violated by the EFCC in obtaining this ex parte order, adding that the application was brought because of his strong and uncompromising stance against some of the obnoxious anti-masses policies of the present administration and the judicial victories he has so far secured against the EFCC in different courts in Nigeria.
The deponent said Ozekhome’s firm has handled and is still handling several matters for Governor Fayose, his friends and aids on the Governors instructions.
He said when the firm confirmed that the money had been duly transferred, it issued a receipt, acknowledging the part payment “for all the cases the Chambers is handling for Governor Fayose”.
“He (EFCC lawyer Oyedepo) knows as a fact that as lawyers, Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers is entitled to its professional fees. He knows as a fact that at the time of payment of the said professional fees, there was no court order declaring the money in Mr. Ayodele Fayose’s account to be suspected proceeds of fraud, or money laundering. There was no encumbrance howsoever, the account having been de-frozen and made operational,” the lawyer said.
Justice Anka will on February 23 hear the motion to set aside the freezing order.