An Uyo, Akwa Ibom State-based Financial Consultant, Ubong Williams, has dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to court, demanding N20 million damages for alleged human rights violation.
Williams also secured an interim injunction restraining the EFCC from taking further action against him pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court.
In the suit No FHC/PH/FHR/240/2020, filed before a vacation Judge, Justice O. Oshomo, of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division, Williams prayed the court to declare his arrest and detention on September 2 a violation of his fundamental right.
Williams also sought the court’s declaration that the harassment, intimidation, psychological torture and incessant invitations by the EFCC infringed his rights as provided for in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“A declaration that the cutting of the electric fence wire, jumping over the fence, breaking the security doors to gain access to the residential of the applicant by the 3rd and 2nd respondent and other officers of the 1st respondent (EFCC) is a breach of the applicant’s fundamental right to private life as guaranteed under Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution as amended,” part of the court document read.
Among other reliefs sought by Williams is an order restraining the anti-graft agency from further breaking into his residential home without lawful justification.
He also sought for an order for unreserved apology to be tendered by the EFCC and its operatives for the violation of his fundamental right and the publication of the apology in a national newspaper.
In an affidavit filed by his counsel, Williams accused the Uyo Zonal Head of the EFCC, Edeh Uchenna, and another operative, Segun Richard, of attempts to extort him.
Trouble started after the applicant’s firm, Arkway Project Limited, was engaged as payment consultant for Akwa Ibom State Government in respect of properties demolished in the course of developing infrastructure in the state.
The affidavit stated that Williams’ company has been discharging its obligation subject to availability of funds from the state government until in 2018 when he was invited by the EFCC on the grounds they were investigating his operations.
According to him, the investigation followed a petition by one Godwin Timothy of Godwin Timothy & Co, an estate surveyor and valuer.
Timothy was said to have claimed that the 10 per cent fee due to independent estate valuers was fraudulently diverted by Williams and the then Commissioner for Works, Ephraim Inyang-eyen.
Part of the affidavit reads: “He (Williams) explained and answered all the questions that he was asked to the satisfaction of the 1st Respondent (EFCC zonal head).
“He had explained to the respondent that the said 10 percent claimed by the petitioners, who are not even the real property owners, is indebtedness the state government owes the estate surveyors and valuers.
“The said 10 percent claim was never released by the state government to him or his company for payment and consequently, same could not have been diverted or embezzled.
“The respondent, in the course of its investigation had a run down on all his bank accounts and still found no trace of diverted funds.”
But on September 10, 2019, he said Inyang-eyen wrote to the EFCC in response to their letter dated September 3, 2019 and clarified the facts and circumstances surrounding the matter.
Again, on June 11, 2020, Inyang-eyen wrote in reply to another letter from the then zonal head of the EFCC, following a fresh invitation to Williams on same petition of alleged diversion of 10 per cent commission for estate surveyors and valuers.
In the letter, Inyang-eyen had indicated the government only paid 90 per cent compensation to property owners, adding the 10 per cent for the surveyors and valuers had not been released to William’s firm.
He said despite the explanations by the commissioner and Williams, the EFCC was still bent on harassing, intimidating, arresting and detaining him.
Sometime in August 2020, Williams said he received a call from Richard to appear at the Uyo office of the anti-graft agency on August 24, 2020.
According to Williams, the operative, however, insisted on having a private meeting with him on August 23, 2020.
On that day, he said Richard met him at Unity Park along Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo in company with a man he (Richard) introduced as “his colleague” from legal department of the commission.
He said Richard and his colleague made attempts to extort him but when he would not oblige, the duo got angry and promised to deal with him when he reports to their office.
Following the threats, Williams said he was afraid to honour the commission’s invitation on August 24, 2020, a situation which resulted in the invasion of his home and arrest of his gate man.
He maintained that Richard led other operatives at a period they reasonably expected him not to be at home and forcefully gained access to his home.
He said: “When the security man (Nsikak Udoh) tried to stop them, the Mr. Richard and his team cut the electric fence wire, jumped over the fence, broke the security doors, bundled the security man and took him to their office on that 1st September, 2020.
“The following day, being the 2nd day of September, 2020, he went to the respondent’s office to report the incident that occurred in his house by the officers of the respondent.
“Instead of giving listening ears to his complaint, the 3rd respondent and other officers of the 1st respondent started demanding for Valuation Report and Payment Schedule which he had on several occasions told them the said documents are not in his custody but are with the state government who is the owner.
“Since he could not provide the documents they were looking for, they started maltreating, harassing and intimidating him and detained him under their custody since 10.am until 7.30 pm before he was allowed to go.
“On the 3rd September, 2020 he was again invited by the Respondents. Upon getting there, he saw two of the petitioners who were equally invited by the Respondents.
“At that meeting, he was again demanded to produce Valuation Report and the Payment Schedule and he kept telling them that the documents are the property of the state government and that it is only the governor that can authorize the release of same upon request.”
Williams said he referred the operatives to the letter earlier written by Inyang-eyen which had conveyed government’s position on the documents they requested.
He said at the instance of the zonal head, the meeting was rescheduled to September 9, 2020, which he honoured, but was surprised to see a crowd of estate surveyors and valuers.
As soon as the meeting commenced, the zonal head again demanded for the Valuation Report and Payment Schedule that he had been asking for over time.
When he insisted he was not in possession of the documents, the zonal head became furious and ordered his detention.
While in detention, Williams said EFCC operatives psychologically traumatised him, beat and threatened him with imprisonment amongst other indignities.
Given the incessant threats and torture by the zonal head and his operatives, Williams said he is afraid they will continue to violate his fundamental rights if the court does not restrain them.