Court orders EFCC to defreeze Ozekhome’s account
The Federal High Court in Lagos Monday defreezed the account of activist-lawyer Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN).
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) froze the account based on an interim order by Justice Abdulazeez Anka.
The agency said Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose made a part-payment of N75million to the lawyer from an alleged N1.2billion the governor allegedly received from the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA).
The commission said it froze Ozekhome’s GTBank account because the N75million Fayose paid him was suspected to be proceed of crime.
Ruling on Ozekhome’s application to defreeze the account, Justice Anka held that Fayose paid the money from an unencumbered account.
He held: “There is no argument whatsoever as to the source of the funds as rightly argued by the learned counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, but the question is: can the respondent/applicant be liable for any infraction as of the time he received the amount in his account?
“His evidence was not controverted that the same proceeds were unencumbered as of the time they were transferred into the account of Mike Ozekhome Chambers as rightly argued by Chief Mike Ozekhome.
“The Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti, Coram Taiwo J, ordered the unfreezing of the said account belonging to Governor Ayodele Fayose.
“I do not understand or comprehend why the applicant/respondent’s counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, would still argue and stand his ground that the same account has not be unfrozen by the Federal High Court sitting in Ekiti State.
“In both the order and the depositions, the account, numbered 1000312625, was evidently and manifestly unfrozen; such an argument, therefore, by Mr. Oyedepo Esq cannot hold water.”
The judge said he arrived at his decision considering the fact that the source of the fund was derivable from an unencumbered account; that the account was unfrozen via the order of the Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti; that the amount has been dissipated; and that the funds were monies paid for the legal services rendered to Fayose.
“I find it very doubtful if the objection of the EFCC can be lawfully sustained,” the judge held.
EFCC obtained the order on February 7, following which Ozekhome urged the court to vacate it.
Justice Anka said he would not allow himself to be lured into sitting as an appellate judge over the counter-decisions of Justice Mohammed Idris who earlier froze Fayose’s accounts and Justice Taiwo who later defreezed the accounts.
The judge also held that the section of the Money Laundering Act dealing with disclosure of lodgements of N10million and above, cited by the EFCC in support of its case, does not apply to a private legal practitioner such as Ozekhome, especially where the N75million was paid from a court-ordered defrozen account.
The judge further held that the act of approaching the Federal High Court, a lower court, to preserve the res (subject matter of a case) already at the Court of Appeal, in an appeal filed by the EFCC itself, or sit on appeal over the proceedings of the appellate court and the judgment of Justice Taiwo, a court of coordinate and concurrent jurisdiction, was wrong.
He chided Oyedepo for approbating and reprobating, when in one breadth, he called the fees proceeds of crime, and in another breadth, he agreed that Ozekhome had actually worked for the fees and was thus entitled to it.
The judge held that filing an application to set aside an earlier ex-parte order of injunction as done by Ozekhome cannot in anyway amount to attempting to shield himself from Investigation.
He, therefore, held that Ozekhome’s motion to defreeze the account succeeded wholly and that the account should be defrozen immediately.
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