•As court unfreezes his account
By Lukman Olabiyi
Rights activist and lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) has slammed the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACC), Prof. Itse Sagay for allegedly misleading President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ozekhome said the committee which ought to be an asset to the Buhari administration has turned into a liability and a source of embarrassment to government.
Ozekhome spoke yesterday, after the Federal High Court, Lagos lifted the order barring him from accessing his bank account into which he received N75 million legal fee from the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.
“The Prof. Sagay-led committee has become an embarrassment to the government. The committee is now a liability to President Buhari. It is just misleading the government on the issue of anti-corruption. Imagine the utterance of the committee in the face-off between the executive and the legislator. This committee should stop misleading the government. The committee has lost focus and its action is now embarrassing the government,” he said.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on February 7, obtained an interim order to stop Ozekhome from dissipating the N75 million on the grounds that it formed part of proceeds of alleged criminal activities by Fayose.
The EFCC claimed that the N75 million, which Fayose paid to Ozekhome, was part of the N2.26 billion arms procurement funds, which former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) allegedly looted. The anti-graft agency claimed to have traced N1.22 billion out of the N2.26 billion Dasukigate to Fayose.
On that basis, Justice Abdulaziz Anka had on February 7 frozen Ozekhome’s account for 120 days.
However, Ozekhome approached the court urging it to vacate the interim order.
In a ruling yesterday, Justice Anka granted Ozekhome’s prayer and dismissed the counter-affidavit filed in opposition by the EFCC.
The judge said though it was not in doubt that the N75 million came from Fayose, Ozekhome could not be held liable because there was no restriction on Fayose’s account as of the time the money was paid to his law firm.
Justice Anka noted that the freezing order earlier obtained by the EFCC in respect of Fayose’s accounts had been lifted by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti. 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 unfroze it.
“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 that the unfreezing of the said account belonging to Governor Ayodele Fayose…Considering the order above quoted and the depositions, 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,” Justice Anka held.
In the final anaysis, the judge said he found sufficient grounds to reject the EFCC’s counter-affidavit.
, including the fact that Ozekhome had already dissipated the N75 million which the EFCC sought to stop him from touching.
He added: “From the circumstances and facts as outlined above, my decision is based on the following considerations: considering the fact that the source of the fund of the respondent/applicant is derivable from an unencumbered account; considering also the fact that such account has also been unfrozen via the order of the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti; considering also that the amount has been dissipated; put into consideration also was the fact that the funds are monies paid for the services rendered by the respondent/applicant in prosecuting various actions before various courts, I find it very doubtful if the objection of the EFCC can be lawfully sustained.”
Ozekhome had in his application contended that the action of the EFCC was unconstitutional, had no legal justification and was a gross violation of sections 36, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution.