The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday awarded N5million damages against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for sealing up two companies and freezing their bank accounts without a court order.
[quote_box_center]The firms, Hair Prestige Manufacturing Nigeria Limited and Prestige Hair Fashion Nigeria Limited (trading under Rana Seasoning Ventures) as well as their director, Gnanhoue Nazaire and Senou Modeste, a company worker, sought N180 million as damages for the violation of their rights.[/quote_box_center]
The applicants said EFCC sealed up the companies and froze their four bank accounts last December 23 after it received a petition that Nazaire was involved in an alleged fraud.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa said EFCC acted without first obtaining a court order.
According to him, there must be a valid warrant by a court before the commission could arrest anyone accused of an offence.
“The first respondent (EFCC) acted rashly and without following due process,” the judge said.
Besides, the judge added, there was no evidence that the commission obtained a warrant or conducted a preliminary investigation into the allegations before sealing up the companies and freezing their accounts.
Justice Yunusa said the fact that the commission admitted that Nazaire and Modeste were “interrogated and released” from its custody implied that they were arrested.
“The exercise of the powers of arrest must be done with restraint, which is the essence of a court order. The need to exercise restraint arises so as not to violate anyone’s rights,” the judge said.
The judge, therefore, directed EFCC to unseal the companies and unfreeze the accounts, and release hard discs seized from the company, as well as Nazaire’s Prazo Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) and Toyota Matrix cars and phones taken away by the operatives.