Justice Akintayo Aluko of the Federal high Court in Lagos has declared the arrest of a businessman, Dickson Nonso Onuchukwu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC unlawful, illegal, oppressive and unconstitutional.

The court held that his harassment, arrest and detention by the Commission was a violation of his rights to dignity of human persons, personal liberty and freedom of movement.

Onuchukwu had in suit number FHC/L/CS/679/2018 filed by his lawyer, Anthony Omaghomi, dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Inspector-General of Police (IG) and the Lagos Commissioner of Police to court for alleged defamation of character, harassment and unlawful detention. 

Onuchukwu, who had been arrested several times by the security agencies, was also paraded by the EFCC together with one Augustine Emenike and a Russian, Max Lobaty as the faces behind Swiss Golden International Company. 

The commission, which described the online gold networking business as a ponzi scheme, had declared on all its social media handles that the sum of N216 million was recovered from the company following petitions by some Kano residents that they were scammed of their money. 

But determined to clear his name of any wrong doing, Onuchukwu, who was first arrested by the EFCC in November at his office (Swiss Golden Africa) in Ikeja, told the court that  he provided documentary evidence to the EFCC that he was not an affiliate of Swiss Golden International.

 He told the court that he was also a customer like those complaining that they were defrauded, adding that the difference was that he took the business seriously and had been networking, growing in it. 

Onuchukwu, also prayed the court to award N1billion damages against the Respondents.

Delivering judgement, Justice Aluko held that the EFCC (1st Respondent) acted illegally and violated the fundamental right of the Applicant when it arrested and detained him based on the petitions which were not written against the applicant and where no complaint was lodged against him. 

Justice Aluko held “The failure of the 1st Respondent (EFCC) to place such intelligence information before the court for the court to evaluate its claim is an indictment on its part confirming the fact that such intelligence information does not exist as none has been made available to the court”. 

On the EFCC’s claim that it obtained a remand order to detain the Applicant, the court held that “there is no basis for the said remand warrant/order because there is no credible evidence before the court showing that the petitioners in the petitions lodged any complaint against the Applicant to necessitate obtaining remand order against him as the name of the Applicant was not mentioned in the said petitions. 

“The 1st Respondent did not place any credible evidence before the court, to show any indictment on the Applicant to necessitate obtaining remand order against him or to have justified his arrest, detention and chains of  ceaseless invitations. 

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“It is my view that the 1st Respondent just went ahead to obtain remand order as a licence to keep on arresting and detaining the Applicant in violation of his fundamental rights without lawful basis. 

“The Applicant (Dickson) has called my attention to exhibit A attached to his further affidavit which is a copy of Police investigation report which reveal that the Police had investigated similar case and found that the Swiss Golden Company is an organisation that deals on contribution of money and that such transactions are commercial and civil transactions. 

“I am of the view that issuing all the chains of invitation letters against the Applicant on the basis of petitions in which his name was not mentioned amount to unwarranted harassment. Similarly, the arrest and detention of the Applicant based on the said petitions are uncalled for. 

“Such arrest and detention constitute flagrant violations of the Applicant’s fundamental rights to dignity of his human person, right to liberty and freedom of movement provided in sections 34(1), 35(1} and 41(1) CFRN. 

“I have examined the entire depositions in the 34 paragraphs of the main affidavit and 15 paragraph further affidavit of the Applicant including the exhibits attached and as a result hold the view that the multiple invitation letters issued and served on the Applicant, his arrest and detention based on the petitions dated 18/10/2017 and 1/11/2017 where his name was not mentioned constitute needless and unwarranted violation of his —fundamental rights. 

“The Respondents are therefore answerable and liable to the claims of the Applicant and by the provision of section 35(6) CFRN, the Applicant is 

entitled to be compensated by payment of damages and issuance of apology for the violation of his fundamental rights. 

Consequently, the court held that the directive by the Respondents that the Applicant should continue to report at their offices either in Kano, Lagos or any where on matters relating to the petitions dated , 18/10/2017 and 1/11/2017 was oppressive, illegal and unconstitutional as same violates Applicant’s right to dignity of human person, personal liberty and freedom of movement as provided for under Sections 34 (1), 35 (1) and 41 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The court also made an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents’ whether by themselves , their servants, privies, agents or howsoever called or any other person or body acting through them or at their instance or on their behalf from further instigating any arrest and detention, or maliciously prosecuting the Applicant with respect to the subject matter giving rise to this action and particularly regarding any claim or investment made directly by anybody or group of persons to Swiss golden International.

Besides, the court ordered EFCC to pay the applicant the sum of N5million while   the Inspector General of police and the Commissioner Police, Lagos state were ordered to pay N2 Million to the Applicant. 

In addition , the court ordered Respondents to issue public apology in any of the the National Newspapers widely circulated particularly in Lagos and Kano States to the Applicant for the unwarranted violation of his fundamental human rights.