The Federal High Court in Lagos has dismissed a fundamental rights suit by Safetrust Mortgage Bank Chief Executive Officer Mr. Akintayo Oloko seeking to stop his arrest and possible prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami (SAN), Mr. Kunle Ogunmefun and Currant Limited are the other defendants.
EFCC launched an investigation against Oloko following a petition by Ogunmefun alleging fraud and massive diversion of funds on the Safe Towers project.
The developers, represented by Oloko, Safetrust Mortgage Bank and Macbosh Properties Limited, sought a mandatory order compelling the respondents to return forthwith the Safe Towers Estate title deed registered as 37/37/2444, covered by Survey Plan BAS258/2013/130-116(3)/LA owned by Macbosh Properties Limited, but allegedly seized by the respondents.
They prayed for an order compelling the respondents to tender written and public apology to them and to pay N500million as general and exemplary damages for Oloko’s arrest and alleged violation of his right to personal liberty.
In a supporting affidavit by Oloko, the applicants said due to misunderstanding, parties agreed to terminate their agreement as contained in a memorandum of understanding on the estate project.
They said it was on the condition that the developer would repay the amount invested along with the interest of 16 per cent, adding that EFCC’s intervention was outside its mandate.
But, Ogunmefun and Currant Limited argued the applicants were not entitled to damages having failed to substantiate their claims.
Besides, they said EFCC did not violate any law when it investigated the applicants based on Ogunmefun’s June 20, 2017 petition.
In his verdict, Justice Muslim Hassan held that the applicants’ originating motion was unmeritious and that EFCC was empowered to investigate any person for fraud without a court order.
The judge held that there was a petition against the applicants for obtaining money by false pretence, which EFCC was validly investigating.
Justice Hassan awarded N20,000 cost in favour of each of the respondents and struck out the AGF’s name from the suit because no reasonable cause of action was disclosed against him.
The judge noted that the applicants could not expect a judicial fiat to prevent the EFCC from doing its work neither could they be shielded from criminal investigation by the court.
Conceived in 2013, Safe Towers is a three-block high rise building comprising 16 units of three bedroom apartments and executive five-bedroom pent duplexes (plus utility room) with swimming pool. The project was to be delivered within 24 months.
To buy one of the blocks for N710 million, Ogunmefun executed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2014 with the developer and made instalmental payments amounting to N550 million.
He, however, petitioned EFCC about an alleged criminal intent to defraud him.
EFCC’s intervention resulted in Oloko’s arrest, following which he sued.