Oduah fails to stop probe on bullet-proof cars

By The Citizen
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Efforts by a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from probing her failed on Wednesday as a Lagos High Court struck out a fundamental rights enforcement suit she filed. Justice Okon Abang struck out the suit for lack of jurisdiction to entertain it and ordered the senator to pay N15, 000 to the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF.

The respondents in the suit were the AGF, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, and the Inspector General of Police.

Oduah had filed the suit last year August, praying the court to restrain agencies of the Federal Government from questioning or prosecuting her over the purchase of two armoured BMW vehicles at a cost of N255m by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority under her watch as aviation minister in 2013.

Oduah claimed to have already been probed and exonerated by the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation and EFCC and urged Justice Abang to declare that any further probe would amount to violating her fundamental rights. Oduah alleged that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, intended to use the respondents to persecute her, being a prominent member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

She claimed that the Federal Government had perfected plans to try prominent members of the PDP on trump up charges in a special Lagos State High Court, so as to turn the country into a one-party state.

She begged the court to restrain the respondents from unleashing repression against her. But EFCC denied doing the bidding of APC, claiming that it was independent. It furnished the court with a petition dated October 18, 2013, written by a lawyer from the chambers of Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, calling for Oduah's investigation. According to EFCC, the said petition was captioned: Request for Investigation of Economic and Financial Crimes of the sum of N255m by Aviation Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah.

But in his judgment, Justice Abang dismissed the EFCC's objection for not complying with Order 8 Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure.

The judge however upheld the preliminary objection filed by the AGF, who challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Lagos to entertain Oduah's suit. Counsel for the AGF, T.A. Gazali, had contended that since the rights violation that Oduah alleged did not happen in Lagos, it would be a violation of Section 46(1) of the constitution and Order 2 Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure to entertain the case in Lagos.

'The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos cannot assume jurisdiction to entertain alleged breach of fundamental rights that did not take place in Lagos State,' Gazali had argued. Justice Abang upheld Gazali's argument and dismissed Oduah's case. The judge also held that if the Federal Government had any valid reason to arraign Oduah in a Lagos State High Court as she alleged, it would not amount to a violation of her right.