Alleged N30bn fraud: Court validates detention of Akwa Ibom senator

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ruled that the detention of the Senator representing Akwa-Ibom North-East, Bassey Akpan, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in May last year was lawful and constitutional.

Akpan had been detained by the EFCC over allegations of misappropriation, abuse of office and money laundering involving about N30bn said to have been voted for the inter-ministerial direct labour scheme of Akwa Ibom State while he was the commissioner of finance in the state.

Delivering judgement, Justice Okon Abang, dismissed the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the senator to claim the sum of N250m as compensation for his alleged illegal detention by the commission and its Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu.

The court held that the suit lacked merit and amounted to an abuse of judicial process. It ordered the senator to pay the sum of N20,000 to the EFCC and Magu as compensation for the cost of the suit.

In dismissing the claim by Akpan that he was being intimidated, embarrassed and harassed with incessant invitations, arrests and detention by the EFCC, Justice Abang held that by virtue of Sections 6, 7 and 13 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, “it is lawful for the EFCC to invite him for questioning.”

The judge added, “If that invitation is what is interpreted to be arrest, it is lawful. EFCC has the power to arrest the applicant and detain him over a reasonable suspicion of a crime in order to complete investigation, but it must be within the ambit of the law.”

Justice Abang ruled that Akpan’s claim that his offence was not disclosed to him by the commission was untrue; adding that that various exhibits presented to the court showed that the senator was invited for questioning in relation to allegations of misappropriation of about N30bn public fund belonging to Akwa Ibom State.

The court ruled that the senator failed to provide credible evidence to prove that the commission and its acting chairman violated his rights to personal liberty and human dignity on May 15, 2018 as alleged.

The court added that in the absence of any evidence from the applicant showing that he was still in detention as of May 17, 2018 when the suit was filed, it was unjustifiable that the affidavit filed in support of the suit was not personally deposed to by the senator but by his legislative aide.

The judge described as belated and an afterthought the disclosure in a “further affidavit” which Akpan later personally deposed to, stating that he was arrested at about 6pm on May 15 and released at about 7pm on May 17.

The judge said, “The period of detention is a material fact which ought to have been deposed to in the affidavit in support and not in a further affidavit.”

The judge also ruled that the detention by the EFCC did not violate the ex parte order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory of May 15, 2018 which allowed the EFCC to only hold Akpan between 1pm and 4pm on each of the questioning.