A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit filed by former Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau and his son, Nanle, challenging the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s power to freeze their Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) accounts without a valid court order.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, held that the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1457/2021 filed by Dariye and Nanle lacked merit.
Justice Ekwo further held that EFCC acted properly when it took steps to comply with the order of the trial court which convicted Dariye.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the accounts were frozen while Dariye was serving a custodial sentence at Kuje Correctional Centre.
The ex-governor and his son had sued the anti-graft agency and CSCS PLC as 1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
In the originating summons filed, their lawyer asked the court to determine whether the defendants were entitled, in view of Section 34 (1) of the EFCC Act, to freeze Dariye’s CSCS account number: 72515276 and his son’s CSCS account number: 81527200 by placing a caution on the operation of those accounts without obtaining an order of the court to do so.
They, therefore, sought an order directing the defendants to lift forthwith the caution placed on the operation of their accounts and to, henceforth, remove the restrictions placed on the execution of their transactions through those accounts.
In an affidavit attached to the application, Dariye’s brother, Dr Haruna, averred that the former governor, who was granted a presidential pardon in 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari, was an investor with substantial shareholdings in several companies listed in the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
He said his son, Nanle, also had substantial shareholdings in some companies listed in the NSE.
He listed the companies in which they had invested as shareholders including Nigerian Breweries Pic., FBN Holdings Pic., UBA Pic., UACN Pic., Lafarge Africa Pic, Friesland Campina Wamco Nigeria Pic. and many others.
Haruna said that all their shares were lodged with CSCS for trading in the NSE through their above account numbers.
The applicants, through their lawyer, prayed to the court to lift the restriction placed on their accounts.
Justice Ekwo said that he found that provisions of Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act were not applicable in the circumstance of the case.
“This is not a situation where the 1st defendant (EFCC) needed to obtain ex-parte order of the court to take the steps it did on this matter,” he said.
He said the finding also exonerated CSCS of any wrong against the Dariyes.
The judge condemned the submission of Dariye’s lawyer where he argued that the mere fact that there was a criminal case against the ex-governor was not enough to justify the unilateral restriction placed by the defendants on their accounts without a court order.
“My heart skipped when I read the submission of the learned counsel for the plaintiffs in paragraph 3.10 of the written address whereat counsel stated thus:
“The statement above is a clear sign of how the moral standard in society has fallen.
“The lack of good conscience is made manifest in the postulation referring to criminal proceedings in our legal system as ‘the mere fact that there was a criminal case against the 1st plaintiff…’
“This means that criminal proceedings is not a serious issue anymore in this country.
“This is a sad chapter in our history as a nation,” he said.
Justice Ekwo said it was even more disturbing when the lawyer had tendered the judgement of the Supreme Court as Exhibit JD1 which judgement affirmed the judgement of the trial court convicting Dariye.
“It is obvious that Exhibit JD1 and what the Supreme Court said do not bother the plaintiffs and their counsel.
“I do not know the essence of this case but it has certainly elicited the fact that the plaintiffs are bent on enjoying the proceeds of the criminal act for which the 1st plaintiff (Dariye) was convicted.
“This court will not be part of the front of the plaintiffs and what I consider as an assault to the order of the trial court which the Supreme Court affirmed,” the judge said.