From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Anwuli Chikere, on Monday, washed her hands off a fundamental right enforcement suit by the former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, filed to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from re-opening investigation against him.
The EFCC had in 2019, said it would probe Saraki’s earnings between 2003 and 2011 when he was governor of Kwara.
But in a swift reaction, Saraki, who was the Senate President between 2015 and 2019, filed two separate suits marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/507/19 and FHC/ABJ/CS/508/19, against the anti-graft agency, on May 10, 2019, challenging the legality of allowing the anti-graft agency to probe him over allegations he said were part of the charge upon which he was previously docked before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
Others joined as respondents in the suits were the Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector-General of Police, State Security Service, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, and the Code of Conduct Bureau.
He contended that allowing the EFCC to re-investigate him on the same set of facts that were litigated up to the Supreme Court, would occasion him to suffer double jeopardy.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Monday, Justice Anwuli Chikere said she could no longer continue as she would be retiring from the Bench in two weeks’ time.
Saraki’s lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, had immediately the case was called up, notified the court that he had withdrawn an application he earlier filed to stay further proceedings in the matter.
Ogunwumiju, SAN, said he was also ready to withdraw another interlocutory appeal pending before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.
He said the essence of the withdrawal was to pave way for the court to hear the substantive suit against the EFCC.
However, Justice Chikere, maintained that it would be impossible for her to hear and conclude the matter, in view of her imminent retirement from the Bench.
Besides, the judge said there was no evidence before her to establish that the pending appeal has been withdrawn.
Consequently, she held that the case file would be returned back to the Chief Judge to be re-assigned to another judge.
Before the lastest development, Justice Taiwo Taiwo had granted an ex-parte application, he filed alongside the suits, ordered EFCC to stay further action on the planned probe, pending the determination of the substantive suits.
Justice Taiwo ordered all the Respondents to maintain the status quo by suspending the planned probe.
‘By the provision of Order 4(3) of the Fundamental Rights Civil Procedure Rules, 2009, the court may, if satisfied that the applicant may be caused hardship before the service of an application where liberty or life of the applicant is involved hear the application ex parte upon such interim reliefs as the justice of the application may demand.
‘There is no doubt that in making the interim reliefs or orders, the court is guided even in its exercise of its discretion judicially and judiciously applied by the law and statutes.
‘I am of the view, after due consideration of the aforesaid, that this court ought to make the order being sought by the applicant pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion on notice,’ Taiwo had ruled.
But dissatisfied with the ruling, EFCC wrote a petition that forced Justice Taiwo to recuse himself from the matter.
It was subsequently assigned to Justice Chikere.