ITSE Sagay, SAN, a law professor and chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, has faulted Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court for granting a perpetual injunction to Peter Odili, a former governor of Rivers State, which has prevented his prosecution since he left office.
Sagay said that Buba’s order which has prevented the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and any other government anti-corruption agency from prosecuting or arresting Odili for the alleged embezzlement of about N100bn of Rivers State money during his eight-year tenure as governor was wrong.
He, therefore, hinted that the case could be reopened and that measures were being put in place to ensure that such an order was never granted again.
He said: “What is happening now is unconstitutional; that judgment was unconstitutional. The judge who gave that perpetual injunction did what was unconstitutional.
“In effect, he was saying that the police should not do their work. He was removing the prosecutorial powers of the police and the prosecution in Nigeria.
“It is illegal and Supreme Court judgments have said so. So, the whole thing we should do now is to restore legality so that if you are charged, you should be able to come to court and defend yourself instead of asking that you should not be investigated.
“That (Odili’s injunction) is totally illegal and unconstitutional and not acceptable.”
Responding to reports that the long delay in the case might have weakened the resolve of security agencies as well as compromised evidence, Sagay urged law enforcement agencies not to give up.
He added, “The important thing is not to give up because if you give up, the whole system will collapse.
“Personally, I have said any judge that gives an order of perpetual injunction against investigation, interrogation and arrest, should be regarded as having committed a serious act of wrongdoing, which should merit disciplinary action by the NJC. That is my proposal and I am going to push it that it should be regarded as an action that should attract discipline.
“I can assure you that under the new system that we are all running, there is no case that will be allowed to remain permanently under injunction. They will have to go through the process and be declared guilty or not guilty; in case of suspended cases, where a person is neither guilty nor innocent will no longer be allowed to exist.”
On December 12, 2006, the EFCC had issued an interim investigative report and prepared a draft of 223 charges against Odili, accusing him of embezzling N100bn during his tenure.
In a swift move against the EFCC, Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), the then attorney general of the state, and later Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs minister, on February 23, 2007, sued the EFCC, Rotimi Amaechi, the then speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, and other defendants in a federal high court in Port Harcourt.
The matter was before Justice Buba of the federal high court in Port Harcourt, who granted Odili’s prayer to bar the EFCC from investigating, prosecuting or ever harassing him and officials of his administration.
The EFCC was said to have an appeal at the appellate court since 2008 but the case had not been assigned to any judge.
— Oct 4, 2016 @ 15:45 GMT