Court Declares Detention of Ex-FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, Unconstitutional, Awards N5m

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Thursday declared illegal the detention of the ex-Minister of the FCT, Bala Mohammed.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had for 49 days detained the former Minister in 2016.
Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf in a judgment Thursday held that the detention of the former FCT Minister, which was done after he was granted bail by his court amounted to a flagrant disobedient of court orders.
Consequently, the court ordered the EFCC to pay the sum of N5m to the former Minister as compensation for his illegal detention, as against the N100m, demanded by him in his fundamental human rights enforcement suit.
In declaring the detention of Mohammed as illegal an unconstitutional, the court said although his arrest by the anti-graft agency cannot be faulted, “but whether the circumstances of his detention outside the statutory period of time does not amount to a violation of his rights under section 46 (1) and (2) of the 1999 constitution.”
The court held that the counter claims by the EFCC, that he was kept in detention on allegations of fraudulent activities including, alleged fictitious contracts worth N1bn, which he allegedly awarded while in office, allocation of plots of land to his family members, among others were not justifiable reasons to keep him in its custody for more than a month.
Besides, Justice Baba-Yusuf said there were no materials placed before his court supporting such allegations by the EFCC.
“The applicant dutifully fulfilled all the conditions of his administrative bail as required by the Commission. Although the respondent claimed that the applicant refused to provide sureties for his bail, it surprisingly did not specifically or categorically denied that the affidavit of the applicant. It is trite law that any fact not specifically denied amounts to admission.
“I therefore have no alternative than to accept as true that the applicant dutifully fulfilled his bail conditions as contained in his administrative bail. What is curious to me is, if the applicant fulfilled his bail, why not released him rather than filling exparte application for remand orders against him?
“Where a party admits the detention of another, the onus to prove that such detention is legal lies on it. In the instant case, no material evidence of fraud, irregular allocation of plots of land, among others is placed before this court.
“All other averments relating to fraudulent activities against the applicant remain largely in the realm of imagination of the respondent and unproved as there is no such document before the court. The result is that the respondent has not proven the allegation to warrant the court to decide otherwise.
“The detention of the applicant after the court ordered for his release on bail beyond 48 hours amounted to a constitutional infringement of his right to personal liberty and freedom of movement, as he was entitled to be released immediately. The altitude of the respondent to get a remand order against him was a deliberate attempt to disobey the order of this court. Justice Baba-Yusuf held.
Although counsel to the former FCT Minister, Chief Chris Uche [SAN] hailed the judgment as victory for democracy, the EFCC counsel, Rimamsomte Ezekiel, said he was going to challenged it at the Court of Appeal.
After spending nearly a month in detention over alleged criminal breaches while in office, former Federal Capital Territory Administration Minister, Bala Mohammed, filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit against the Commission over alleged violation of his fundamental right.
The EFCC, which clamped Mohammed into detention was trying to extract critical information from him of how he executed the controversial Land Swap deal in which the FCT is said to have lost about N1 trillion and many other projects now under probe.
But unwilling to stay further in EFCC custody, Mohammed approached an Abuja High Court to enforce his fundamental rights, asking to be let off the commission’s hook.
Mohammed, former Minister under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, had been in the custody of the EFCC since October 25 following petitions against him.
The former Minister, through his counsel, Chris Uche, brought a motion of violation of fundamental human right against the EFCC for detaining him for four weeks.
He also sought the order of the court for the EFCC to release him on bail and also to award N100m damages against the anti-graft commission.

Author: News Editor

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