Human rights activist and lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has asked Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court, in Lagos, to vacate the order freezing his account granted on February 7.
The court had ordered a temporary forfeiture of N75 million found in Ozekhome’s Guarantee Trust Bank account for 120 days.
The order was as a result of an application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before the court, which prayed it to freeze Ozakhome’s account temporarily on the ground that the N75 million was suspected to be proceed of crime.
In an application, praying the court to unfreeze his account, the rights activist, who alleged that EFCC suppressed fact to get the order from the court, held that an order for interim attachment/forfeiture of his account was done in bad faith by the anti-corruption agency, and did not complied with statutory and judicial authorities in obtaining an interim order vide motion ex parte.
He, therefore, sought an order restraining the Federal Government and the EFCC, whether by themselves, their operatives, agents, servants, and/or privies howsoever, from dealing in anyway and manner as to the operation or the proprietary rights of the ownership of the account.
“The Applicant’s family, staff, dependants, associates, business and livelihood will greatly suffer, and are already suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable damage if this application is not granted.
“The interest of justice demands that these prayers be granted as it will ensure that the applicant and his family, staff, associates, livelihood, dependants and business do not suffer untold and irreparable damages,” Ozekhome said.
The senior advocate said EFCC’s application and the subsequent order were based on non-compliance with the court’s rules and judicial authorities regulating the grant of ex-parte application.
He argued that the entire application leading to the granting of the interim order ex parte amounts to forum shopping and was calculated to overreach him.
Ozekhome said the N75million was part-payment of legal fees from Governor Ayodele Fayode of Ekiti State.
“The issue of whether or not the funds in Governor Fayose’s account from which the N75 Million was posted to Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers GT Bank account is suspected proceed of crime is currently on appeal as filed and entered by the self same Counsel to the respondent herein, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa,” Ozekhome said.
Ozekhome also filed an affidavit of urgency deposed to by a lawyer in his firm Chimaobi Onuigbo, praying that that the case be heard urgently.
“The motion on notice seeking to discharge and/or vacate the said interim order of this honourable court on 7th February, 2017, requires urgent hearing and determination, as the continued freezing of Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers’ account renders the chambers impecunious and unable to carry out the day to day activities of the firm,” he said.
The lawyer said the temporary freezing of his account has caused Ozekhome “untold embarrassment, public odium, obloquy and mental agony as the respondent gave very wide publicity to the said freezing or attachment in print, electronic and social media, thus giving the wrong impression that he has committed a criminal offence against the laws of the land.”
On the materials facts EFCC allegedly suppressed, Ozekhome said EFCC did not disclose to Justice Anka the fact that Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti, had defrozen Fayose’s accounts forthwith, thereby allowing the governor to operate them, before Fayose transferred N75 million to Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers account.
Ozekhome said as at the time Fayose transferred N75million to his chambers account, there was no court processes filed or served on the applicant, indicating that the EFCC was on appeal, or asking the court to stay the execution of the order defreezing Fayose’s account.
“The applicant did not state that the order of court was served on Zenith Bank and that the money was transferred with the full co-operation of the Bank who was the 2nd Defendant at all material times.
“Fayose, had himself withdrawn the sum of N5,000,000.00 in cash before transferring the sum of N75,000,000.00 to the account of Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers,” the lawyer said.
Ozekhome said the rules regulating ex-parte applications were blatantly violated by the EFCC in obtaining this ex parte order, adding that the application was brought because of his strong and uncompromising stance against some of the obnoxious anti-masses policies of the present administration and the judicial victories he has so far secured against the EFCC in different courts in Nigeria.
The deponent said Ozekhome’s firm has handled and is still handling several matters for Governor Fayose, his friends and aids on the Governors instructions.
He said when the firm confirmed that the money had been duly transferred; it issued a receipt, acknowledging the part payment “for all the cases the Chambers is handling for Governor Fayose”.
“He (EFCC lawyer Oyedepo) knows as a fact that as lawyers, Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers is entitled to its professional fees. He knows as a fact that at the time of payment of the said professional fees, there was no court order declaring the money in Mr. Ayodele Fayose’s account to be suspected proceeds of fraud, or money laundering. There was no encumbrance howsoever, the account having been defrozen and made operational,” the lawyer said.
The motion to set aside the freezing order will be heard on February 23.
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