June 17, 2024

EFCC slammed with N10m damages for declaring pastor, wife wanted without court order


A Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, has awarded the sum of N10 million as damages against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for declaring Pastor Oyinmiebi Biribena and his wife, Pastor Beatrice Biribena, wanted without a valid court order.

Biribena is the pastor in charge of the Christ Embassy Church in Kumasi, Ghana.

The court declared that the publication by EFCC on June 8, 2022, declaring Biribena and his wife, Beatrice Biribena, wanted without a valid court order, is unjustified, unlawful and unconstitutional.

The court presided over by Justice Dashen gave the declaration while ruling the suit ( No. FHC/YNG/CS/132/2022) filed on June 10, 2022, by Biribena and his wife, Beatrice Biribena. The plaintiffs had sought the enforcement of their fundamental human rights against EFCC.

The court entered judgement in favour of the plaintiffs and resolved the issue against the anti-graft agency.

The court also declared that the newspaper publication of June 8, 2022, by EFCC, declaring the duo wanted without a valid court order, constitutes a breach of their fundamental rights to personal liberty, freedom of movement, right to private and family life, and dignity of human person as guaranteed by sections 34(1), 35(1) 37 and 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and articles 4, 5, 6 and 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

Justice Dashen also gave an order directing and compelling the EFCC to offer a public apology to Biribena and his wife for the unlawful publication declaring them wanted without a valid court order.

The court equally issued an order restraining EFCC from inviting, harassing, arresting and detaining the plaintiffs, pending the determination of the suit (No. FHC/YNG/CS/125/2022) between Bliss Multinational Perfections Limited and another versus EFCC.

In the case between Bliss Multinational Perfections Limited and Οyinmiebi Biribena versus EFCC, Justice Dashen, while ruling on the Originating Summons filed on June 7, 2022, granted some declarations in favour of the plaintiffs against EFCC.

The court declared that by the provisions of sections 49 and 50 of the Nigeria Cooperative Societies Act, 1993, Cap C.35, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and Section 51 of the Cooperative Societies Law of Bayelsa State, Cap C11, 2006, members of Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society cannot report any dispute arising from transactions between themselves and the cooperative society to any security agency nor resort to any court of law without first reporting to the registrar and director of the Bureau of Cooperative Societies of Bayelsa State.

The court also declared that by the interpretation of the provisions of sections 49 and 50 of the Nigeria Cooperative Societies Act, 1993, Cap C.35, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and Section 51 of the Cooperative Societies Law of Bayelsa State, Cap C11, 2006, the defendant cannot interfere in any dispute between members of Baraza Multipurpose Society arising from the registered business objects of the cooperative society.

In the same vein, the court declared that by the provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004, EFCC is not empowered to wade into disputes borne out of civil transactions arising from the registered business objects of the cooperative society. And also, by the provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004, the agency cannot seize the plaintiff’s properties that are clearly not proceeds of crime.

Consequently, Justice Dashen declared EFCC’s seizure and sealing of Bliss Multinational Perfections Limited’s property, situated at No. 1 Otiotio Road, Yenezue-Gene, Yenagoa, Bayelsa Bayelsa State (known as Bliss Emporium), as wrong and unlawful.

Similarly, the judge declared EFCC’s seizure and sealing of the jointly-owned properties of Bliss Multinational Perfections Limited and Oyinmiebi Biribena, situated at No. 57, Green Villa Road, Biogbolo, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, as wrongful and unlawful.

The court, in addition, declared that the EFCC’s instructions to Biribena’s bankers to freeze his bank account over a criminal investigation of fraud, due to disputes arising from civil transactions between members of Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society, without recourse to the registrar or director of the Bureau of Cooperative Societies, Bayelsa State, is wrongful, and unlawful.

The court therefore issued an order of perpetual injunction directing and compelling EFCC to refrain from inviting, arresting, detaining and harassing the plaintiffs over disputes arising from transactions with Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society.

However, instead of the N100 million requested by the plaintiffs, the court granted the sum of N10 million only as exemplary damages against EFCC.





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