The legal team of a former 2nd Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani, has condemned his continued detention by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission despite a court order ordering that he be released or charged before a court of law.
The Nigerian Bar Association had also condemned Ubani’s detention which it claimed violated a subsisting court order.
But in a rebuttal earlier on Tuesday, the EFCC, through its acting spokesperson, Mr. Tony Orilade, justified the detention of the former NBA chief.
EFCC explained that Ubani was being held for standing surety for an allegedly absconded client, Dr. Ngozi Olojeme, whom it described as “a prime suspect in the N68bn NSITF fraud”.
But the lead defence counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said in a statement on Wednesday that the detention of Ubani alongside Mr. Christopher Enai, for being the sureties for an allegedly absconded client under criminal investigation for fraud, Dr. Ngozi Olojeme, was unjustifiable.
His statement stated, “I hereby condemn the continued illegal detention of Mr. Ubani and his co-applicant, Hon. Christopher Enai, by the EFCC without recourse to the rule of law, after a valid court had ordered their release from detention. Injustice to one is injustice to all.
“The EFCC should understand that no nation thrives on illegality and lawlessness, and survive.
“A situation whereby the EFCC would disregard a valid and extant court order and resort to self-help is dangerous to our nascent democracy.
“Mr. Ubani and Hon Christopher Enai as citizens of Nigeria are protected by the 1999 Constitution. They are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.”
Ozekhome noted that “standing surety for a client who has absconded without the surety’s knowledge is not a crime, but a civil matter”.
He recalled that Justice Sylvanus Oriji of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, had in a ruling on an ex-parte application, ordered the EFCC to charge Ubani and his co-applicant to court on or before February 28, 2019, or release them on bail upon meeting certain bail conditions as stated by the court itself.
“Mr. Ubani and Hon Christopher Enai have since met the said bail conditions, but are still arbitrarily kept in EFCC gulag,” Ozekhome said.
Giving an account of the state of the case, Ozekhome said the EFCC had itself filed a motion before the same Justice Oriji, to compel Ubani and Enai to forfeit the bail bond of N1bn, they had signed on behalf of their client.
“The present situation is therefore akin to persecution and not prosecution,” said the senior lawyer, who added that the two men had been in EFCC’s custody for two weeks.
He added, “I hereby vehemently reject such administrative lawlessness which has become the poster boy of the present Federal Government and by extension, the EFCC. EFCC, please, obey the law and court orders. Release Mr Monday Ubani and Hon Christopher Enai immediately.”
Faulting the claim that the commission was violating a court order, Orilade said it was “regrettable that the NBA opted to vilify the commission over a purported order that is based on an ex parte motion by Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Counsel to Ubani, without any objective attempt at reviewing the facts of the case between the EFCC and Ubani.”
The commission added, “Unknown to the bar leadership, there are, at least, three different motions before the court on this matter.
“The applicants have a pending motion on notice for bail. They also filed a motion ex parte for bail. All the Commission is waiting for are dates for the motions to be argued.”