More facts have come to light as to why a High Court sitting in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, quashed the declaration of the Executive Vice Chairman of Aiteo Group, Benedict Peters, as “wanted” by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had in March last year declared Peters wanted in connection with criminal conspiracy, diversion of funds and money laundering.
But in a judgment last Thursday, Justice Oathman Musa held that the anti-graft agency has no power to declare Peters or anyone “wanted” without a court order.
This was in response to suit number FCT/HC/CV/23/2017 filed by Peters, accusing the EFCC of declaring him wanted on its website without following due process.
In his ruling, the judge said: “Peters has never been charged with, nor tried for any criminal offence in any court of law, nor has he ever jumped bail for any offence howsoever in Nigeria and cannot be declared wanted by administrative fiat without any prior order or leave of court.”
The judgment further read: “The very act of declaring the applicant (Benedict Peters) a wanted person on the official website of the first respondent (EFCC) without any prior order or leave of a court of competent jurisdiction to that effect is unlawful, illegal, wrongful, ultra vires, unconstitutional and constitutes a flagrant violation of the fundamental rights of the applicant to personal liberty, private and family life, freedom of movement and the right to not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment as guaranteed under Section 34, 37, 41 and 46 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and Articles 2, 3(1) & (2), 4, 5, 6, 7, and 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 2004.”
On August 15, 2016, Peters was declared wanted by the EFCC without an order of a court and in the absence of a valid charge in a court of law.
The declaration was published in Punch newspaper, online publications – Premium Times and Sahara Reporters – and on the official website of the EFCC