The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered a temporary forfeiture of N75million found in the account of an activist-lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN). The account is domiciled in Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
The order followed an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Justice Abdulaziz Anka gave the order based on motion ex-parte filed by the commission.
EFCC prayed the court to freeze Ozakhome’s account temporarily on the ground that the N75 million was suspected to be proceed of crime. The commission said the lawyer deposited the money last December 15.
EFCC’s lawyer Mohammed Idris moved the application.
An EFCC investigator, Tosin Owobo, who swore to an affidavit of urgency, prayed the court to grant the application.
The commission asked that the account be temporary frozen for 120 days pending conclusion of investigation.
Justice Anka granted the prayer, adding that any party not satisfied with the ruling could appeal.
Human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), says the N75million frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in his account was a part payment of legal fees by Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose.
He said the fund was for legal services he rendered the governor in his personal capacity, and to his aides.
“For the records, the N75million was paid into my account by my client, Governor Fayose of Ekiti State as part payment of professional fees for the numerous cases my chambers is currently handling for him (in his personal capacity) and his aides across Nigeria. The money is neither ‘suspected proceeds of crime’ or of money laundering,” he said in a statement.
Ozekhome said he represented Fayose against EFCC before Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Ekiti.
He said the judge on January 31 dismissed EFCC’s motion seeking to restrain the governor from withdrawing the remaining balance from his account that was earlier frozen by the commission but was de-frozen by the judge.
EFCC has appealed the ruling.
The senior advocate said: “The present action of EFCC is clearly calculated to overreach Governor Fayose. This will never happen. I will continue to defend beleaguered and oppressed Nigerians from the antics and highhandedness of publicly-funded government institutions that breach their fundamental rights.
“It is sickening and inconceivable that money legitimately and legally paid by a client to his solicitor from an unencumbered account wholly and totally defrozen and unblocked by the judgment of a competent court of law can be termed ‘suspected proceeds of crime or money laundering.
“I am practicing lawyer, not a government employee, contractor or a businessman. I have never laundered and will never launder any money in my life.
“It is so shameful and disgusting when we make ourselves a laughing stock before international circles through brazen unconstitutional acts by publicly-funded government institutions just to silence all critical voices of reason and plurality of ideas.
“I shall take immediate legal steps to defreeze the account in the event that the EFCC does not immediately voluntarily vacate the said order.”