ICPC has powers to investigate anybody in Nigeria – Court
*Chief Afe Babalola (SAN)’s suit delivered this classicus
Hon. Justice Rilwan Aikawa sitting in the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos, has affirmed the powers of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate allegations of corrupt practices made against any person or authority in Nigeria, even if the allegations arose in civil disputes.
This was a fall-out of the ruling of the judge when he dismissed a suit filed by seven persons against the Commission and the Attorney General of the Federation challenging their invitation by ICPC during the investigation of a matter involving them and one of Nigeria’s notable legal practitioners.
In the suit with number FHC/L/CS/1315/2015 between High Chief Waheed Gbadamosi Eletu, S.B. Joseph (SAN), A. A. Agbojuaje, Esq, Mr Ashimi and 4 others vs ICPC and Attorney General of the Federation, filed by Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, Esq the claimants, four members of the Eletu Family of Lagos, two lawyers and a surveyor had sued to challenge their invitation, the freezing of bank accounts and investigation by ICPC over an alleged dispute with Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) on payment of professional fees of $10m in respect of his legal services which led to the recovery of a vast expanse of land for the Eletu family in Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos State at the Supreme Court.
The applicants were claiming a total of N600million damages for alleged breach of their fundamental rights.
In a judgement dismissing the claim, Hon. Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that following the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Attorney General of Ondo State vs Attorney General of the Federation and 36 Others (2002), that ICPC had a statutory duty to investigate allegations of corrupt practices made against any person or authority in Nigeria and that neither the claimants nor the court has the discretion to stop a statutory agency of government from performing its duties.
Hon Justice Aikawa further agreed with the submission of ICPC’s counsel, E. A. Shogunle, Esq, that the 1st Respondent, ICPC, had established that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that certain high-ranking public officials and lawyers acted in abuse of their offices to facilitate a breach of contract with Chief Afe Babalola in order to confer corrupt advantage upon themselves in violation of sections 19 and 25 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
The judge further held that paragraph 10 of the counter affidavit of the 1st Respondent established that there were reasonable grounds to invite the applicants to assist in the investigation, noting also that ICPC was not at liberty to disclose the identity of the petitioner and suspects until investigation was completed. He however cautioned that the investigation “should not last till eternity”.