By Akin Kuponiyi
A federal high court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria has dismissed a suit filed before the
the court, by a Limited liability company Aquila Leasing Limited, seeking an order of the court to stop EFCC from investigating the company over alleged financial fraud
By a suit filed before the court by Aquila Leasing Limited, against five respondents namely, EFCC, Oikocredit Ecumenical Development, The responsibility management company, Symbiotics SICAC(LUX), Belgian Investment Company for Developing countries SA/NV
However, the name of the second defendant was struck out bringing the number of the respondents to four.
The Aquila company seeks jointly and severally against the respondents an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents and their agent’s privies or whosoever is acting on their behalf from harassing, oppressing, detaining, arresting the company, its officers and staff or interfering in any way with the smooth running of the company’s business in any manner whatsoever that will breach the fundamental rights of the applicant.
The second to fourth respondents had filed a petition with the first respondent EFCC to recover alleged outstanding sums from the loan advanced to Aquila company because the company was in arrears of repayment of the loan. The respondents averred that the criminal allegations against the company were meant to harass, intimidate, and threaten the company and its officers.
This step taken by the respondents is not only crass and abuse of legal cum administrative process but also a flagrant disregard for the rule of law enforcement in purely civil matters between parties. There is no basis for the continuous invitation, threat intimidation and harassment by EFCC without justification.
In its response, EFCC filed a counter-affidavit attached to the petition written by the respondents and submitted that the proper test for determining whether an allegation is criminal or not is to look at the charge or allegation itself, not the explanation offered by the company.
By sections 6,7,13 and 41 of the EFCC Act, EFCC is empowered to investigate all cases of economic and financial crimes reported to it and could arrest, detain and prosecute where a prima facie case is established against any culprit. It was based on this that the company was invited to explain its involvement in a petition against it.
Upon receiving a petition bordering on financial fraud against the company, EFCC invited the company who made a voluntary statement and was allowed to go back the same day. There is no place in the originating processes that the applicant alleged arrest or that he was violently forced to do anything when visited EFCC’s office. It was submitted that the Company, is not immune from investigation by the EFCC.
The allegation by the applicant that it was invited and threatened by EFCC that a criminal charge will be made against it and its bail will be revoked, is a ploy to mislead the court.
Consequently, the court was urged to hold that the company is not entitled to the reliefs sought and accordingly dismiss the instant application with punitive cost.
It was further submitted that contrary to the argument that respondents reported the pure civil matter to EFCC, the funds obtained by way of loan by the company were utilized for different purposes other than the purpose the company represented to induce the grant of the loans and that it appeared that the funds have been diverted to the company’s sister companies.
These suspected activities suggest the offence of obtaining by pretence contrary to section 419 of the criminal code and obtaining credit by pretence contrary to section 313 of the criminal law of Lagos state 211. EFCC, therefore, acted within the investigating powers under sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Act.
They also show that there was no threatened breach of the fundamental rights of the company and their officials.
The EFCC acted within the purview of its powers and can not be questioned for carrying out its functions. The EFCC
Cannot be made liable for carrying out their duty as good citizens if not of Nigeria then of the civilized world.
In his Judgement, the presiding Judge, Ayokunle Fiji said, “There is no iota of instigation or overbearing conduct on the part of the Development Finance Institutions. This is because the EFCC acted within its statutory powers.
I am also of the view that going by the definition of investigation supra, the applicant seems to be trying to prevent the EFCC from carrying out its functions of investigating and prosecuting financial crime.
It also seems that for as long as the investigation continues, the EFCC is within its rights to require the presence of the applicant and its officials.
It also seems that the EFCC at no time harassed or intimidated the company. The actions of the EFCC in this matter were clearly within the purview of its powers and the courts will not interfere therewith.
The instant claim thus lacks merit. The applicant has thus not made out a claim for the enforcement of its fundamental rights. The matter is hereby dismissed.