SCOPE OF THE JURISDICTION OF THE STATE AND FEDERAL HIGH COURTS WITH RESPECT TO ENFORCEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

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CASE TITLE: EFCC v. REINL (2020) LPELR-49387(SC)

JUDGMENT DATE: 24TH JANUARY, 2020

PRACTICE AREA: ENFORCEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

LEAD JUDGE: KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C.

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:

INTRODUCTION

This appeal borders on the Enforcement of Fundamental Rights.

FACTS

This appeal is against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division delivered on 26/1/2018.

The brief facts of the case, as pleaded by the respondent in his affidavit in support of his originating motion are as follows: That he was an Austrian national married to a Nigerian woman, and has lived in Nigeria for over 20 years. That he has taken up residency in the country and has his businesses investments here. That on 28th December 2015, five men who identified themselves as operatives of the appellant, stormed his home and with a search warrant and informed him that his presence was required at the appellant’s office in respect of an allegation of money laundering concerning contracts awarded to his companies by the office of the National Security Adviser. He denied any fraudulent dealing and informed the operatives that in fact he had outstanding payments due to him in respect of completed contracts, which had been verified by the office of the National Security Adviser. He averred that inspite of investigations which confirmed that there was no wrongdoing on his part, the appellant ordered his detention at their facility on 28/12/2015, where he remained without being charged to Court until 5/2/2016.

In the course of executing the search warrant in his home, various documents belonging to his businesses, his international passport and items belonging to his wife and brother-in-law, such as their mobile phones, were confiscated. He averred that access to his bank accounts was restricted and he was placed on a watch list and no fly list. That the confiscation of his international passport and restriction of access to his bank accounts had damaged his reputation, affected his business and traumatized him.

As stated earlier, the appellant contended that the respondent was merely arrested for questioning following its investigation into the ill-fated arms deal by the office of the National Security Adviser, pursuant to which it was discovered that huge amounts of money were traced to companies in which the respondent is the alter ego. It denied detaining the respondent or confiscating his international passport.

The Respondent filed an originating motion at the High Court for the Enforcement of his Fundamental Rights. The Appellant also filed a Preliminary Objection challenging the Jurisdiction of the High Court to entertain the suit. The High Court found no merit in the Appellant’s objection and thus found in favour of the Respondent in the substantive suit. The Appellant’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was unsuccessful hence a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

The Court determined the appeal on these issues couched as follows:

  1. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal did not err in law in upholding the decision of the trial Court when they held that the trial court had jurisdiction to entertain suit number HC/FCT/CV/849/2016.
  2. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in law in upholding the decision of the trial Court when they held that the amended originating motion dated 7th day of March, 2016 was accompanied with a statement as required by FREP Rules, 2009.
  3. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in law in upholding the decision of the trial Court when they held that the Appellant detained the Respondent for five weeks from 28/12/2015 till 5/2/2016 when there was no shred of evidence at the trial Court and the lower Court to that effect.
  4. Whether the learned trial Judge did not err in law when he acted on the amended originating motion filed on 7th March 2016 which formed the basis of his decision when the said amended originating motion was incompetent having been amended and filed without the leave of the Court.

DECISION/HELD

On the whole, the Court found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed same.

RATIOS:

  • APPEAL- INTERFERENCE WITH CONCURRENT FINDING(S) OF FACT(S): Instances where the Supreme Court will not interfere with concurrent findings of fact(s) made by Lower Courts
  • JURISDICTION- JURISDICTION OF THE STATE/FEDERAL HIGH COURT: Scope of the jurisdiction of the State and Federal High Courts with respect to enforcement of fundamental rights
  • JURISDICTION- JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT: Whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear appeals directly from decisions of the High Court
  • PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES: Instance where the incorporation of the facts contained in an affidavit in support of an originating motion as grounds for the relief sought will be held to have complied with the provisions of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules
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lawpavilion • March 10, 2020


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