A businessman, James Olaoluwaniyi, has been arraigned by the EFCC for allegedly converting to personal use the sum of $59,220 erroneously transferred into his account by Sterling Bank. Olaoluwaniyi subsequently sued the EFCC, pleading unlawful detention; while he also asked for a cost of N50,000 against the commission.
At the hearing in a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, the court, however, awarded N20,000 in favor of the EFCC. The applicants in the suit are Olaoluwaniyi and a company, Triump Energy Nig. Ltd. Justice Chuka Obiozor awarded the cost against Olaoluwaniyi, while granting an adjournment in the suit to enable his counsel to affix the Nigeria Bar Association seal to his court processes.
The EFCC and Sterling Bank Plc are joined as first and second respondents respectively. In a motion on notice, the applicant is seeking a declaration that his arrest and continued detention by the EFCC at the instance of Sterling Bank since February 5, over his alleged utilisation of funds mistakenly credited into his account by the bank, is unlawful.
The motion was brought pursuant to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, 2009. Olaoluwaniyi wants the court to declare his arrest and detention as unconstitutional, claiming that his act did not amount to a crime. He argues that no intention to commit the offence has been established by the respondents.
NEC Nzebude announced appearance for the applicant on Thursday, while Mr. N.N. Anana, appeared with Mrs. Chineye Okezie for the EFCC, and Mr. S.O. Elimihe represented Sterling Bank. The motion dated February 27 was filed by his counsel on February 28, but midway into adoption of his processes, the court noticed that applicant’s court papers had no NBA seals as required by law.
When the court demanded an explanation, the applicant’s counsel informed the court that his partner who prepared and filed the processes failed to affix the seals. He then urged the court to grant a short adjournment to enable him to regularise the processes.
In response, EFCC counsel (Anana) opposed the application on the grounds that the case was slated for definite hearing. He asked for a cost of N50,000 against the applicant in case the court would be inclined to grant the adjournment.
Counsel to the second respondent also adopted the submission of the EFCC in opposing the request for adjournment and urged the court to either dismiss the case or enter judgment.
The judge noted that bail was at the discretion of the court, but must at all times be exercised judiciously. Describing the absence of the NBA Seal as an irregularity, the court, consequently, adjourned the case until June 26 for definite hearing, but awarded a cost of N20,000 in favour of each of the EFCC and Sterling Bank, which should be paid on or before the adjourned date.
In the suit, the applicant is seeking a court order, directing the EFCC, its officers and agents, to release him from custody with immediate effect, as well as an order of perpetual injunction, restraining them from further interfering with his liberty.
Meanwhile, in a counter-affidavit, deposed to by one Calistus Egwuonwu, EFCC averred that it received a petition on June 12, 2018, against the applicant over the fraudulent conversion of $59,220 erroneously transferred into his account.
The Commission said that the applicant admitted before it to have converted the fund, but claimed that he had been expecting money in same account from a business partner.
It said that the applicant was informed of the error, but he had already spent $39,554 out of the money, even though he realised that the sender was not his supposed client. According to the EFCC, the bank was able to debit the sum of $19,666 from the account and an additional $10,000 which was refunded by the applicant after appeals, leaving a balance of $29,000.
EFCC said that it was the continuous refusal of the applicant to pay up the balance that necessitated the petition leading to his arrest. Besides, the Commission averred that the applicant was not being held or detained on the instigation of any individuals, but was granted bail whose conditions he failed to fulfill. According to the EFCC, a charge of stealing is pending against the applicant before a Lagos High Court.