From Joe Effiong, Uyo
N40 million damages have been slammed on the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC) by an Akwa Ibom State High Court in Uyo for an illegal arrest and detention of an Uyo-based businessman, Ubong Williams.
William, according to a suit instituted through his lawyer, Andem Andem, was arrested and detained by the commission from March 18 until April 8, a period of 22 days.
The court presided over by Justice Nsemeke Daniel, yesterday held that the arrest, torture, harassment and intimidation of Mr Williams by operatives of the ICPC was illegal and infringed his fundamental rights as contained in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
It also held that the detention of the applicant from March 18 until April 8 was illegal, unlawful and an infringement of his fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.
Again, the court ruled that the notice of seizure issued by the ICPC to freeze the account of Mr Williams in a second-generation bank was illegal, unlawful and an infringement of his right of interest in movable property.
It ordered the ICPC to withdraw the notice of seizure dated March 25 on Mr William’s account while also nullifying the lien placed on the account by the anti-graft agency.
The court ordered:
‘That the respondents are hereby restrained by an order of perpetual injunction, either by themselves, agents, servants or privies from further arresting, harassing, intimidating and detaining the applicant in any manner whatsoever in connection with the subject matter of this suit.
‘That the sum of N40 million damages is awarded against the respondent for the infringement of the applicant’s fundamental rights.’
Mr Williams, a consultant with Akwa Ibom State Government was arrested by the ICPC in a similar petition he is in court with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
ICPC operatives led by the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner, Shola Shodipo, had picked up Mr Williams from his office on Thursday, March 18 and took him to Abuja where he was detained for two weeks without trial.
But in an ex parte motion filed on behalf of Mr Williams by his lawyer, Andem Andem, in Suit Number: HU/FHR.67/2021, the applicant prayed the court to hold that the action of the anti-graft agency violated his fundamental rights.
In the suit, the ICPC, its Director of Operations, Akem Lawal and the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner, Shola Shodipo are listed as first, second and third respondents, respectively.
While kicking against the prolonged detention of his client, Mr Andem argued that the anti-graft agency had failed to inform Mr Williams of the particular offence for which he was arrested.
Mr Andem also held that keeping his client in custody without charging him to court is unconstitutional and a breach of the applicant’s fundamental rights.
But ruling on the application, the presiding judge, Nsemeke Daniel, ordered that ‘the applicant, Ubong Williams shall be released forthwith from detention pending the determination of his application for enforcement of fundamental rights in this court.’
Despite the court order, the ICPC had kept the applicant in detention until April 8 when the Chairman of the commission, Bolaji Owasanoye, finally approved his release.