An High Court sitting in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, has awarded the sum of N200,000 against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and two others for reportedly violating the right of a United States based car dealer, Mr. Kolawole Oyedeji.
The car dealer had challenged the right of the EFCC and Messers Segun Oloruntuyi and Olubunmi Adejorin to arrest and detain him at the instance of the third respondent (Adejorin).
Justice Iyabo Yerima in Suit Number M/377/2020 said the anti-graft commission had no right to effect debt recovery, adding that doing so “amounts to meddlesomeness and interloping.”
Oyedeji had alleged that his arrest and detention by the operatives of the EFCC, the second respondent at the instance of the third respondent was unlawful.
The plaintiff, who is a United States-based licensed auto dealer, explained in the affidavit deposed to by his counsel that he and Adejorin had transacted business together on three different occasions without any hitch and the breakdown of contract that led to the current problem was due to the global lockdown occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
He said the dispute between him and the third respondent leading to his arrest and detention by the EFCC “is a purely civil/commercial dispute that does not concern the first and second respondents in any way, but they acted like meddlesome interlopers in the dispute.
“The first and second respondents have failed to carry out their duties to maintain peace, law and order and to take the necessary steps to protect and safeguard the Nigerian citizens as provided by the law.”
Oyedeji insisted that his arrest and detention “is wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional as it is a gross violation of his Fundamental Human Rights as guaranteed by Sections 35 and 44 of the Nigerian Constitution.”
He was, however, countered by the counsel to the third respondent, Abiodun Ayodele, who asked the court to determine whether the rights being claimed by the applicant were absolute or not.
Citing various authorities and precedents, Justice Yerima said, “The EFCC has not been empowered by its establishment Act of 2004 nor by any other law guiding the Commission to meddle in civil transactions. As the first and second respondents arrested and detained the applicant over a commercial contractual issue that arose between him and the third respondent, they acted outside the scope of their authority and therefore breached the applicant’s right as set out in Section 35 of the Constitution.
“I hold that the detention of the applicant by the first and the second respondents over an issue that is contractual in nature amounts to a breach of the applicant’s fundamental rights as guaranteed under Section 34, 35 and 44 of the constitution.”
The judge added that “As the dispute between the applicant and the third respondent is civil, it is not the place of the first and second respondents to harass, intimidate or threaten the applicant or try to recover the third respondent’s money. I therefore find that it was unlawful and illegal for the first and second respondents to have involved themselves in the failed transaction between the applicant and the third respondent.”