By Lukman Olabiyi
The hope of the embattled Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Rickey Tarfa was dashed in a N2.5billion fundamental human rights enforcement suit, he filed against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).
The trial judge in the suit, Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos stayed further proceedings pending the outcome of criminal charge filed against Tarfa by EFCC.
Tarfa had filed the suit following his arrest by the anti-graft agency within the premises of the Igbosere High Court over alleged shielding of two Beninoise who are his clients from arrest.
Justice Idris, in a ruling on the matter on Tuesday, granted the EFCC’s request asking that proceedings be stayed pending the hearing and final determination of a criminal charge against Tarfa before Justice Aishat Opesanwo of the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere.
Justice Idris while noted that even though, there was no law that forbids the hearing of both civil and criminal matters together; ” a court retains discretion to stay civil proceedings during the pendency of criminal proceedings.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the substantial part of the reliefs sought herein do have a direct bearing with the charge pending at the Lagos High Court. It is clear from the evidence before the court that the applicant’s mobile handset and Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) have been registered as exhibits to be tendered at the criminal proceedings. Also, the information and data retrieved from the mobile handset are to be used as evidence in the crimimal charge at the Lagos High Court.
“But, there is a potential injustice that may befall the defendant in the prosecution of the criminal charge if this suit were to proceed to judgment and judgment was for instance, given in favour of the applicant. There is a strong possibility that it will signal the end of the criminal charge at the Lagos High Court. This court should not make orders that will strike violently at the heart of the criminal charge now pending at the Lagos High Court. For the above reasons, I am of the view that in the light of the peculiar circumstances of this case which is unprecedented, this is a proper case which proceedings should be stayed pending the hearing of the criminal charge at the Lagos High Court”, the judge held.
Justice Idris had earlier in the ruling dismissed the EFCC’s objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter.
The judge disagreed with the anti-graft agency that by the circumstances of the arraignment of the applicant at the Lagos High Court, the relief sought in the fundamental rights enforcement suit have become academic.
The court said it will not because of the EFCC’s argument declined jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
In the substantive suit, Rickey Tarfa was asking the court to compel the anti-graft agency and his Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu to pay him N2.5billion.
Defendants are; the Commission, Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, the EFCC operatives that arrested him, Moses Awolusi, and the Deputy Director Operations, EFCC, Lagos office, Iliyasu Kwarbai.
Apart from the monetary compensation, Tarfa also asked the court to compel the defendants to release his two mobile handsets allegedly collected from him on Friday, February 5, 2016 at their Ikoyi office in Lagos.