Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
The Appeal court sitting in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, on Thursday gave a nod to a continued investigation of Governor Ayo Fayose’s accounts by upholding the appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the earlier judgement of the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti, which had ordered that the accounts be unfrozen by Zenith Bank.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti, ordered the Bank to unfreeze Fayose’s accounts on the grounds that the EFCC had suppressed facts while supplying the Governor’s account numbers for freezing by failing to provide his names and particulars alongside the account numbers before Justice M.B Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Justice Idris had given an ex parte order on June 24, 2017, placing a ban on Fayose’s accounts with the Bank. Upon that order, the EFCC froze the Governor’s accounts without having his particulars and names on record.
The first respondent, Fayose, had gone to the Bank to get his money at the its branch in Ado Ekiti but was told he could not do so by the bank manager who showed him a letter showing that his account had been frozen.
Fayose subsequently went to the Federal High in Ado Ekiti to sue the EFCC and the Bank, challenging the legality of freezing his accounts without his knowledge.
Meanwhile, the EFCC capitalized on the section 34 of the EFCC Act, that it could freeze the Governor’s account with an ex parte order.
However, counsel to Fayose, Chief Mike Ozekhome, argued before the court that that the EFCC Act in question actually states that the name and particulars of the account owner must be supplied with the number before it could be frozen.
Based on Ozekhme’s argument, Justice Taiwo ordered that the Governor’s accounts be unfrozen, agreeing that there was a suppression of facts by the EFCC.
Being aggrieved, the EFCC went to the Court of Appeal and filed a motion for stay of execution on the ruling and proceeded to the main appeal.
During the trial of the case, which began Monday, April 16, the ex parte order from Justice Idris in Lagos, which was not produced before the Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti before its ruling in favour of Fayose, was brought before the Court of Appeal by the EFCC, to further argue its case.
The Appeal Court judgement in Ado Ekiti delivered Thursday by a three-man panel led by Justice J.S Ikyegh, cited Fayehinmi v. Social Democratic Party (SDP), which states in Section 308 of the Constitution that the sitting governor can be investigated, only that he cannot be prosecuted or invited for interrogation.
The Appeal Court also held that the fact that the EFCC did not include the particulars of the Governor and his names alongside his account numbers is not a suppression of fact.
Counsel to Fayose, Ozekhome, has hinted that the matter would be appealed at the Supreme Court.