Lawyers and human rights groups yesterday in Lagos condemned the action of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for laying siege on the private ward of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, where the chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, Mr. Wale Babalakin (SAN) was hospitalized. They described it as a violation of his right.
One of the lawyers who spoke with our correspondent, Dr Joseph Nwobike, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) described the action of the EFCC as an abuse of power and a violation of the businessman’s right to life and medical care. Nwobike said it was tantamount to a breach of Bi-Courtney’s boss fundamental human rights for the anti-graft body to lay siege for him in the hospital where he is receiving treatment, thereby worsening his state of health.
“I understand that the EFCC granted Dr. Babalakin administrative bail which has not been vacated by the commission. I am also aware that the EFCC knew that Dr Babalakin is ill and he is undergoing treatment at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. “The court has adjourned his arraignment to December 12, so the EFCC ought to wait and see if he will not come to court. If at that stage his reason for not appearing in court is not reasonable, the EFCC can then take action under the authorization of the court to compel him to come for his trial.
“This is an abuse of power on the part of the EFCC and should be condemned by all.” Babalakins’s company had alleged on Wednesday that EFCC operatives numbering over 20 had stormed the hospital where he is being treated for an undisclosed illness and detained him in the ward. Similarly, the Rights Monitoring Group has also condemned the EFCC‘s action. In a statement issued yesterday by its National Coordinator, Olufemi Aduwo, the group said the present action of the anti-corruption agency against the Bi-Courtney boss reflects its desperation to violate the provisions of the law and constitution in order to circumvent justice, and a violation of the basic human rights of the citizen. “It is noteworthy that this brings back sad memories of the days of General Sani Abacha, when the rights of Nigerians were trampled upon with ease. We are against corruption, we have been partnering with EFCC during Ribadu and Larmode is a personal friend but we will not support violation of any citizen’s rights.
Since a Court has ruled, EFCC should obey the same and follow due process to get him arranged before the court. Sir Peter Odili, former governor of River State got a court injunction against EFCC that he should not be investigated, arranged or arrested and for the past three years, EFFC did nothing to lift the injunction or forcefully arrest him. “Since Justice Mohammed ldris of Federal High Court has ruled on the ex-parte application filed by Babalakin stopping EFCC from proceeding with the arraignment, what is normal for EFCC is to get the injunction lifted.”
The Court must also be obeyed. Nigerians are waiting for when EFCC will continue Fred Ajudua and Dariye cases both in Nigeria and London,” the group noted. Another Lagos based lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Majebi stated that in as much as he does not believe that anyone is above the law, he does not subscribe to the tyranny, the EFCC is employing Babalakin case. “If Wale Babalakin is in hospital the EFCC should wait until he recover to arrest and prosecute him, what is the desperation all about? “After all, they have waited six years to file this charge. Once this is allowed to go unchallenged it becomes a bad precedence, which would empower security agencies to go and arrest suspects on their sick bed.
“Without creating a scene EFCC can keep an eye on him. LUTH is a public institution they can liaise with the Chief Medical Director via official channels such that he can be monitored. What I don’t like, is for the EFCC to barge into the ward and arrest him on his sick bed.” ?Also, a human right activist, Jiti Ogunye said though the EFCC may have a good reason for their action given past experience where suspect had feigned illness to evade arrest