Friday, June 24, 2022

Court unfreezes Ozekhome’s account

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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A federal high court in Lagos on Monday lifted restrictions on Guaranty Trust Bank account of a senior lawyer, Mike Ozekhome.

On February 7, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, obtained an interim order to freeze Mr Ozekhome’s account, which he used to receive N75million legal fees from Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose.

A federal high court sitting in Ado Ekiti had on December 14, 2016 ordered the EFCC to immediately unfreeze the accounts of Mr Fayose, saying the action was against due process and that the anti-graft agency did not follow the laid down regulations in freezing the accounts.

The EFCC claimed that the N75m which Mr Fayose paid to Mr Ozekhome was part of the N2.26bn arms procurement funds, which a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, shared to the then ruling party officials for political activities.

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The anti-corruption agency claimed to have traced N1.22bn out of the N2.26bn arms procurement funds to Mr Fayose.

On that basis, Justice Abdulaziz Anka had on February 7 frozen Mr Ozekhome’s account for 120 days.

Displeased, however, Ozekhome approached the court urging the court to vacate the interim order.

In a ruling on Monday, Justice Anka granted Ozekhome’s prayer and dismissed the counter-affidavit filed in opposition by the EFCC.

The judge said though it was not in doubt that the N75m came from Fayose, Ozekhome could not be held liable because there was no restriction on Fayose’s account as of the time the N75m was paid to his law firm.

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Justice Anka noted that the freezing order earlier obtained by the EFCC in respect of Fayose’s accounts had been lifted by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti.

Justice Anka said he would not allow himself to be lured into sitting as an appellate judge over the counter-decisions of Justice Mohammed Idris who earlier froze Fayose’s accounts and Justice Taiwo who later unfroze the accounts.

“There is no argument whatsoever as to the source of the funds as rightly argued by the learned counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, but the question is: can the respondent/applicant be liable for any infraction as of the time he received the amount in his account?

“His evidence was not controverted that the same proceeds were unencumbered as of the time they were transferred into the account of Mike Ozekhome Chambers as rightly argued by Chief Mike Ozekhome.

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“The Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti, Coram Taiwo J, ordered that the unfreezing of the said account belonging to Governor Ayodele Fayose.

“Considering the order above quoted and the depositions, I do not understand or comprehend why the applicant/respondent’s counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, would still argue and stand his ground that the same account has not be unfrozen by the Federal High Court sitting in Ekiti State.

“In both the order and the depositions, the account numbered 1000312625, was evidently and manifestly unfrozen, such an argument, therefore, by Mr Oyedepo Esq cannot hold water,” Justice Anka held.

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