Court Orders EFCC to Pay N10m Damages Over Unlawful Detention

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A High Court sitting in Abuja, the federal capital territory has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to pay a sum of N10 million to Mr. Wolgang Reinl, an Abuja based Austrian Security contractor over his unlawful detention and seizure of his international Passport by the anti-graft agency. The Leadership reports.

The fine was imposed on EFCC as compensatory damages for the violation of Mr. Reinl’s fundamental rights to dignity of human person and personal liberty.

The court also barred the EFCC from arresting, re-arresting, detaining or embarking on further seizure of the international passport of the plaintiff.

In his judgment, Justice Peter Affen ordered the EFCC to release the international passport, cheque books and cell phones seized from the plaintiff in the wake of his arrest and detention.

Justice Affen in 27-page judgment also ordered EFCC to remove Mr. Wolgang Rein from their watch-list or no-fly list as doing so violates on the fundamental rights of Reinl to freedom of liberty. The court held that the detention of the plaintiff at the EFCC custody in Abuja for over a month was unlawful, unconstitutional and constituted a gross violation of the plaintiff fundamental right to dignity as enshrined in Section 34 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution.

It could be recalled that Mr. Reinl was arrested and detained in December 2015 by the EFCC in connection with the ongoing trial of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.

His lawyer, Mr. Afam Osigwe had approached the Federal Capital Territory High Court for the enforcement of his fundamental human right,

But the EFCC through its counsel, Mr. Ibrahim Audu had at an earlier sitting told the court that the EFCC never detained Mr. Wolfgang let alone seizing his belongings.

Then EFCC counsel had said it was a “mere Litigation Secretary” in the EFCC that deposed to an affidavit indicating the detention of the plaintiff.

In his judgment, Justice Affen said: “The law is well settled that where specific facts have been alleged against any person, it is that person but no other who may deny or refute those facts.

“It therefore seems to me that feeble spirited denial in the counter affidavit is not sufficient in law to dislodge the plaintiff allegation and I cannot but find and hold that plaintiff was arrested and detained by the respondent for about five weeks from December 28, 2015 to February 5, 2016 as alleged and which constitutes a flagrant violation of the plaintiff fundamental rights to personal liberty.

“I equally find and hold that the EFCC seized or confiscated the plaintiff international passport in flagrant violation of his right to freedom of movement as guaranteed under Section 12 of the African Charter.”

Justice Affen also urged the EFCC and other law enforcing agencies to “necessarily keep within the detention timelines prescribed by law as well as scrupulously observe the procedural safeguards required of them in order to maintain the delicate balance between law enforcement on one hand, and according due regard and recognition to human rights on the other hand.

“It cannot be over-emphasised that law enforcing agencies must operate within the confines of the laws they are required to enforce in order to make law enforcement more effective and effectual.

“Law enforcers must observe and ensure the observance of ‘the law behind the law’ by demonstrating a moral commitment to the very laws they are required to enforce, for without such moral commitment to the law ‘who will guard the guard, and who will police the police.’

“Any failure or neglect by them to observe that timelines and safeguards may constitute an infraction of rights guaranteed and protected by the constitution which the supreme law of the land and from which other laws derived their validity,” the Judge said.

 

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