COURT NULLIFIES ICPC'S SUMMON OF ENUGU BIZMAN
By Tony Edike
ENUGU - THE Federal High Court in Enugu has granted an Enugu-based business man relief to exercise his fundamental human rights against the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC.
Chief Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman and Managing Director of Innoson Nigeria Ltd, Enugu, had been invited by the ICPC to appear before the commission's SOD, Chukwuma Alexander for 'the purpose of being examined in order to assist the commission in the investigation of a petition relating to alleged violation of ICPC Act 2000.'
But Chukwuma challenged the invitation seeking five reliefs from the court among which were a declaration that the said order being imposed on the applicant contravened the constitutional provisions under section 36(6) (a) - (b) for its deliberate failure to specify either offences involving the applicant or even the nature of the complaints raised in the alleged petition.
He also sought a declaration that he bore no responsibility either in law or fact to be summoned by the respondents to appear before it to answer to any issues pertaining to an on-going court proceedings of Commissioner of Police vs Goni Golnit and others now at large, pending at an Enugu Chief Magistrate court.
In her ruling, Justice D. V. Agishi stressed that what was not clear to the court was whether the ICPC could just summon anybody to its office for undisclosed offences as in the case before her.
She deposed that if the respondents had the same powers as the police as canvassed by the applicant's lawyer, they also had the corresponding duty to disclose the purpose of the invitation to persons being invited.
'This is in conformity with section 36(6) (a) and (b) of the constitution which has earlier been cited. It should also be noted that the constitution is the organic law of the country and that any law which is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, the constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void,' Justice Agishi said.
The judge disagreed with the ICPC that the contents or particulars of investigation cannot be disclosed to the applicant on account of section 27(4) of the ICPC Act.
'I thought that the respondents (ICPC) will be generous enough to explain in terms the meaning of invitation to 'assist in the investigation' but they did not. If they did, it would have helped us to know exactly what the applicant is expected to do at the commission,' she declared.
The respondents, the judge maintained, did not make further attempt to disclose their reason for calling for documents which are subject of a law suit and the courts proceeding, adding that as far as that matter was pending before a law court, it was subjudice.
Allowing the application based on the facts before the court, the judge insisted that the ICPC did not come out clearly to disclose why they want the record of proceedings of court and other materials which are subject of dispute in the case taken to them.
The judge however awarded a cost of N10,000 in favour of the applicant.