Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from arresting, probing or prosecuting former Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs, Kingsley Kuku, pending the determination of his appeal on an earlier ruling of the court.
It will be recalled that Justice Abang had on February 17 this year, while ruling on a fundamental right enforcement suit, filed by kuku against EFCC held that the commission can arrest, probe and prosecute Kuku over alleged financial impropriety during his tenure.
Apparently dissatisfied with the ruling, Kuku filed an appeal before the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal seeking to overturned the verdict.
The special adviser on Niger Delta and coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) to President Jonathan also filed a motion for stay of execution of the ruling before the high court, dated February 23, supported with 11 paragraphs affidavit, deposed to by one Chinedu Obata before the court.
In an unusual development, Justice Abang, who is currently sitting in Abuja Division of the Court, came to Lagos yesterday, on the permission of the Chief Judge, to delivered ruling on the application.
The judge in his ruling held that the application before the court has nothing to do with statutory right of the respondents.
Justice Abang ordered the parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of appeal filed by Kuku on the matter.
He said, “Time can not run against the State in arresting or prosecuting the applicant if truly, is culpable of the alleged offence. The respondents have nothing to lose if status quo is maintained. So, therefore all action concerning arrest, detention and prosecution of the applicant should hold on for now, till final determination of the appeal on the matter”, the court ruled.
Justice Abang in the earlier judgment had declared that the anti-graft agency has right to arrest kuku, warned the commission not to coerce or threaten anybody to give false statement against the applicant.
Besides, the court also held that if Kuku will be arrested, he should not be detained beyond 48 hours because that would contravene Section 35(4) (5) of the 1999 Constitution.
Kuku sued the Attorney-General of the Federation, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the DSS and the Nigeria Immigration Service, alleging of “plots by the respondents to concoct, fabricate or falsify evidence in order to provide a basis for his arrest, detention, persecution and/or prosecution for political reasons”.
According to him, it was “in furtherance of the unconscionable use of the otherwise laudable war against corruption to repress the political opposition constituted by the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including the applicant.”
Kuku sought a declaration that any such invitation, arrest, harassment or prosecution on the basis of allegations of corruption in respect to his tenure as Chairman of the Amnesty Programme between 2011 and 2015 is a breach of his right to fair hearing and freedom of movement.
Similarly, he sought an order prohibiting the respondents from arresting or prosecuting him on the basis of the allegations.
The Auditor-General of the Federation had raised questions over alleged mismanagement of funds in reports of audit monitoring and evaluation of the amnesty programme.
Kuku’s lawyer Mr. Ajibola Oluyede said the respondents were about to abuse the criminal process by seeking to arrest his client.
“There is an illegal and unjustifiable instigation of the criminal process against the applicant in a manner that infringes upon his fundamental rights as enshrined in Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution,” he said.