Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A federal high court in Abuja has restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Department of State Services (DSS) and the police from arresting or detaining former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Afenifere Renewal Group’s publicity secretary, Yinka Odumakin, for allegedly spreading false rumours.
The decision was sequel to a fundamental rights enforcement suit that Fani-Kayode and Odumakin filed, following threats by the EFCC to invite them in relation to their alleged involvement in the spread of false rumour about the purported raid of the residence of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, by EFCC officials.
In the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/49/2019, filed and argued by their counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), Fani-Kayode and Odumakin prayed the court for, among others, “an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the respondents, by themselves, agents, privies or anybody deriving authority from them by whatever name called, from harassing, intimidating, abducting or detaining the applicants.
The suit was supported by a 24-paragraph verifying affidavit deposed to by Emmanuel Olorunmagba, stating the events that led to the suit.
Justice John Tsoho, who issued the order in his judgement on the suit, however, held that any arrest or detention of Fani-Kayode and Odumakin by the respondents must comply with the law.
The court further declared the respondents’ public declaration to arrest the applicants on the basis of spreading false rumours as an infringement on their rights and a breach of their fundamental rights as enshrined in section 34(a) 35(1) (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution.
In addition, the court also declared that the said threat to falsely imprison their liberty, safety, peace and security was a breach of their rights as enshrined in Section 34 (a), 35 (1) (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Tsoho also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, by themselves, agents, privies, or anybody deriving authority from them from harassing, intimidating, arresting, abducting or detaining the applicants.
The court granted an order enforcing the applicants’ fundamental rights and ordering the respondents to stop issuing threats of unlawful arrest, by themselves, agents, privies, or anybody deriving authority from them against the applicants or any other person connected to the applicants.
However, Justice Tsoho rejected the applicants’ prayer for an order directing the respondents to tender an unreserved public apology to them.
The judge equally declined the request by Fani-Kayode and Odumakin for an award of N20 million “as damages for the unlawful threat to arrest the applicants.”
Justice Tsoho, however, held that, since Section 46 of the Constitution allows the filing of anticipatory suit, where an individual suspects that his or her rights were about to be breached, he was convinced that there was threat to violate the applicants’ rights.
The judge noted that by the way the EFCC went about publishing its threat to invite the applicants, and the “intemperate language” deployed in the press release authored by Orilade Tony, he was convinced that the applicants established a cause of action and the likelihood of their rights being breached.