Friday, February 19, 2016 9:01 am
Lagos senior lawyer, Rickey Tarfa will need a lot of his legal skills to fight the evidence that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has mounted against him, as the two battle in two separate, but related cases in court.
In one, Tarfa sued the EFCC to enforce his fundamental human rights, asking for a N2.5billion compensation from the EFCC, following his arrest by the agency last week Friday.
Tarfa asked the court to compel the defendants which included Moses Awolusi, the operatives that illegally arrested him and the Deputy Director Operations, EFCC, Lagos office, Iliyasu Kwarbai, to release his two mobile handsets to the court.
He said they “deceitfully collected” the phones from him on Friday, February, 5 2016 at their Ikoyi office in Lagos for the purpose of destroying all information, data and other retrievable materials stored in the two handsets.
He also sought an order urging the court to direct the defendants to release his Mercedes Benz SUV with registration No. KJA 700CG unlawfully seized from him.
The same day, the EFCC also filed a case of obstruction and perversion of the course of justice against Tarfa, at a Lagos High Court. The case was heard on Tuesday at the court presided over by Justice Aishat Opesanwo made more headlines with the judge complaining about intimidation because Tarfa jammed the court with 90 lawyers, 15 of them fellow senior advocates of Nigeria, who came in his defence.
Damning court documents published today by premiumtimesng.com show that the EFCC in a counter-affidavit to Tarfa’s fundamental human rights case has evidence that Tarfa has had improper relationships with justices of the courts, and in particular he has been in dalliance with Federal High court judge, Justice M.N Yunusa on the case in question.
The document provides details of phone contacts between the judge and Tarfa and bank documents detailing money transfer from the lawyer to Justice Yunusa, detailing bank account numbers.
”Based on intelligence report available to the Commission that the Applicant in a desperate bid to pervert the cause of justice in earlier proceedings involving the suspects on the subject matter was using his GSM ….. to communicate with Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa in a case before His Lordship, the 1st Respondent requested the Applicant upon his arrest to respond to the allegation and surrender his mobile Apple I-Phone 6, colour black with MTN No. …..,” the EFCC stated in a counter affidavit deposed to by Moses Awolusi, an EFCC investigator.
”That based on investigations and data analysis of the Applicant’s mobile phones startling revelations about secret, unhealthy communications between the Applicant and judicial officers emerged.
”That investigations revealed that whilst Suits Nos. FHC/L/CS/715/2015 between Rana Prestige Industries Nigeria (owned by the suspects) and EFCC and FHC/L/CS/716 between Hair Prestige Manufacturing Nigeria and EFCC were pending before His Lordship Justice M. N. Yunusa of the Federal High Court Lagos Judicial Division were ongoing, the Applicant and Honourable Justice Yunusa of the Federal High Court were in constant communication outside the court through their mobile phone numbers i.e. GSM 080xxxxxx belonging to Justice Yunusa and GSM 080xxxxx belonging to the Applicant Rickey Tarfa SAN respectively.
“Now shown to me is the call/message logs marked Exhibit ‘E’ revealing communication between the Applicant and Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa during the pendency of the said proceedings.
“That I am aware that a petition regarding this unethical practice between the Applicant and Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa is already pending against Justice M. N. Yunusa before the National Judicial Council (NJC) and Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa has been asked to respond to same by the NJC.”
The EFCC had accused Mr. Tarfa of wilfully obstructing two of its officers from arresting Gnanhooue Sourou and Nazaire Odeste, the owners of Rana Prestige Industries.
According to the Commission, the senior lawyer had blocked the operatives’ attempt to arrest the two suspects, accused of committing financial crimes, by keeping them in his car for hours.
The commission noted that the arrest of the suspects was based on reasonable grounds that Mr. Tarfa obstructed the operatives of the EFCC from performing their statutory duties on 5th February 2016 between the hours of 12noon and 5pm when he “willfully locked up in his Black Mercedes Jeep with Registration No. KJA 700 CG Lagos suspects wanted for economic and financial crimes in circumstances explained above.”
The EFCC also stated that from its investigations, Mr. Tarfa’s law firm, Rickey Tarfa & Co. with Access Bank Account with account no. 0000964760 paid N225,000 into Justice Yunusa’s bank account.
“I know from facts revealed during investigation that the said bribe of N225, 000.00 Two Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand Naira) was accepted and acknowledged by Justice Yunusa in a text message to the Applicant wherein he said, “Thank you my senior advocate”.
”I also know that investigations has revealed that the applicant’s law firm was in the habit of asking the Chief Registrar of the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court to assign his cases before His Lordship Honourable M. N. Yunusa in furtherance of the understanding between the Applicant and the particular judge.
”I also know that investigations has revealed that even the junior counsel in the law firm of the applicant also engaged in the corrupt practices of their boss by manipulating the Federal High Court Registry to fix and assign cases filed by them to particular judges. Attached and marked Exhibit ‘P’ herewith are text messages on the assignment of the applicant’s firm’s cases to Justice Yunusa’s court.”
The Commission further stated that Mr. Tarfa had, in April last year, attended a book launch in honour of Ibrahim Auta, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, in the company of Gabriel Igbinedion, who was the chief launcher.
Mr. Tarfa introduced Mr. Igbinedion to judges and senior lawyers who attended the programme, according to the EFCC.
“That I know as a fact that inspite of the Applicant’s knowledge of Rule 3(f)(j) of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers which stipulates that ‘A judicial officer and members of his family shall neither ask for nor accept any gift, bequest, favour, or loan on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties’ the Applicant did not advise his client not to donate the said sum of N8 million to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. Now shown to me and marked Exhibit ‘Q’ is Thisday edition of 3rd May 2015 capturing the proceedings of the launching including role of the Applicant.
“That I know as a fact that the Applicant’s client, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion made the donation of N8m in the referred occasion to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court inspite of knowledge by Chief Gabriel Igbinedion that his son Michael Igbinedion who had been convicted was awaiting the sentence of the Federal High Court in criminal proceedings pending against Chief Gabriel Igbinedion’s son (Chief Michael Igbinedion) before the Federal High Court.
“That I know as a fact that a few hours after the donation of the said sum of N8 million to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court by the Applicant’s client, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion’s convicted son was sentenced to a year imprisonment or N1 million through a questionable plea bargain which was condemned by all right thinking Nigerians.”