A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, fixed March 7 to hear arguments in a suit filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) seeking an order to unfreeze his account. Justice Abdulazeez Anka, had on Feb. 7, ordered temporary forfeiture of N75 million found in Ozekhome’s Guarantee Trust Bank account.
The order followed an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which prayed the court to freeze Ozekhome’s account temporarily on the ground that the funds was suspected to be proceeds of crime. When the case was called, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court of a counter affidavit filed in response to the suit.
He added that affidavit had been served on the plaintiff. In his response, plaintiff told the court that he had yet to look at the document and asked for time to respond to same. Consequently, Justice Abdulazeez Anka fixed March 7 for hearing of the application.
In his application, Ozekhome is seeking an order, discharging forthwith, the interim order made ex-parte, which ordered temporary attachment of the money for 120 days. He sought an order restraining the EFCC, whether by themselves or their privies, from dealing in anyway and manner as to the operation or the proprietary rights of the ownership of the account.
Ozekhome said that the application for an order of interim forfeiture of his account was done in bad faith by EFCC. He added that the EFCC did not comply with statutory authorities in obtaining an interim order vide a motion exparte. According to him, the respondent allegedly suppressed material facts in obtaining the order, adding that the action was unconstitutional as it offends sections 36, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution.
In his application, Ozekhome argued that the money was paid to his law firm by Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti as legal fees. He added that Fayose’s account had been unfrozen by a court’s order before the funds were drawn. In the counter affidavit deposed to by an EFCC prosecutor, Mr Idris Mohammed, the commission asked the court not to allow the plaintiff access to his account in GTB which has a balance of N75 million.
The commission claimed that the money, paid to Ozekhome as legal fee by Fayose, was part of the N2.26 billion arms procurement fund, allegedly looted by former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.). The EFCC also claimed that it had traced about N1.22 billion out of the N2.26 billion to Fayose. It said the money was routed to Fayose through a former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro.
It said that despite the fact that Fayose was aware that it had appealed the unfreezing of his account, he still went ahead to withdraw part of the contentious funds and paid 75 million to Ozekhome. The commission urged the court not to vacate the freezing order.