The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC ) has denied being part of any deal to exclude former Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko Inde from criminal prosecution for fraud and money laundering.
EFCC made the clarification in a notice of preliminary objection it filed in a suit by Inde, in which the ex-Customs chief claimed to have entered an agreement with the EFCC to refund about N1.6billion to Federal Government’s coffers, following which he would excluded from prosecution.
Lawyer to Inde, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), while arguing his client’s counter-affidavit to EFCC’s objection on Thursday, contended that it was a breach of an existing agreement and contract for EFCC to seek to prosecute the ex-Customs chief after he has kept to his side of the bargain and made huge refund to the government.
Magaji also faulted EFCC’s claim that the suit was wrongly commenced by way of origination summons.
He argued that, contrary to EFCC’s contention, facts in the case were not contentious. He added that the issue involved in the case was simple.
Mahmud said: “Our case is simply about the interpretation of Section 174 of the Constitution and Section 14(2) of EFCC Act, and no more.
“Our decision to bring this action by way of an originating summons is the appropriate position. There is no hostility in the whole case.
“Our client was to be prosecuted for financial crimes. When he was invited, he was confronted by information the EFCC said it has against him by virtue of its investigation activities.
“He (Inde) was confronted with options of either to enter a refund agreement or be prosecuted. He agreed to a refund. And made refund in several tranches.
“At every payment, we ensured that we get evidence of payment from the bank,” Magaji said.
He identified the evidence of payment as reflected in some court documents marked as Exhibit 1 to 20D, and said “these are the evidence of the refund we made”
When asked by the judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, aboutwhere the said agreement was reached, Magaji said a meeting was held at the instance of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Magaji added that after the agreement was reached by parties, an official of the EFCC, who he identified as Hajeed (who was the IPO in the case) provided an account number into which his client (Inde) made all the refund he made.
He added: “We have fulfilled our side of the agreement. It is for the EFCC to fulfil its own side of the agreement, by complying and allowing things to settle
“We are asking that under Section 174 of Constitution and Section 14(2) of EFCC Act, the EFCC is not bound by this agreement.
“We are asking this court to enforce this agreement on them. They should be bound by the agreement,” Mahmud said.
In a counter-argument, EFCC’s lawyer, Chile Okoroma urged the court to decline jurisdiction over the suit because it was wrongly instituted.
Okoroma argued that the case was brought under the originating summons rules when facts in the suit are disputed.
He added: “They said they made some payments by agreement and we said no, we are not aware of any payment.
“They claimed Magu (EFCC’s Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu) was part of the agreement, but we said no. We do not know anything about the agreement they claimed to have with the AGF.
“These are triable issues. There are contentious facts and we say, we need those disputed facts to be resolved by calling oral evidence. That is our ground of objecting to the suit.
Before entertaining arguments from the two lawyers, Justice Dimgba observed that while there was evidence that the AGF was aware of the case and had been served all documents relating to it, the AGF has not filed any process in response to the case since it was commenced last year.
In a ruling, Justice Dimgba uphled EFCC’s objection in part.
The judge agreed that facts were contested by parties and ordered them to file pleadings.
He said: “Having reviewed the processes filed, I am of the view that the suit was wrongly commenced. The facts are so hostile. Parties are to file pleadings.
The judge adjourned to March 1 this year.