By Jerry Uwah, Lagos and
Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos and an FCT High Court, Jabi, Abuja, are embroiled in controversy over the release of detained Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Mr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah.
While the FHC presided by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the Department of State Service, to, unconditionally release Ubah within 48 hours, Justice Yusuf Haliru of the FCT High Court, advised Mrs. Ifeoma Esom, counsel to Ubah, to file an application seeking her client’s bail.
In his ruling on a motion seeking Ubah’s release, Justice Idris declared that proper charge should be made against the embattled businessman if the DSS must detain him beyond the stipulated 48 hours.
The Lagos court scolded the DSS for lying on oath in a bid to justify Uba’s detention, describing the action as unfortunate.
“Security agencies must understand that they are not instruments of debt recovery,” Justice Idris held.
At the last hearing of the case, Justice Idris was informed that Ubah allegedly committed economic sabotage.
This, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), said was the reason the oil magnate was still being detained by the DSS.
The Corporation had insisted that Ubah committed economic sabotage by diverting petroleum products kept in his custody.
Questioning the jurisdiction of Justice Idris to entertain the matter, the NNPC through its counsel, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, SAN, noted that all the infringements allegedly committed by the plaintiff took place in Abuja, and not in Lagos.
On his part, counsel to the DSS, Peter Okerinmade, had requested that the court should dismiss the application of the plaintiff on the reason that the court does not have the jurisdiction to look into the suit.
Even the EFCC through its counsel, A. M. Ocholi, contended that going through the affidavit filed by the applicant, there was no where it was raised that the rights of Ubah had been breached by the anti-graft agency.
But Esom, counsel to Ubah, urged the court to discountenance all the objections raised by the respondents.
She subsequently prayed the court to issue an order, directing the DSS to release Ubah unconditionally, or in the alternative, admit him to bail, pending the conclusion of investigation.
However, Justice Haliru of FCT High Court advised Uba’s counsel to file an application seeking her client’s bail.
The judge gave the advice after declining to set aside an exparte order delivered on May 10, 2017, which gave the DSS 14 days to detain Ubah.
The ruling came shortly after Justice Mohammed ordered Ubah’s release.
However, Uba had argued that the exparte order made by the FCT High Court, which elapsed on May 24, was secured based on suppression of facts.
Ruling on Uba’s application yesterday, Justice Haliru held that the court was constrained to grant the motion because the DSS got a valid order to detain him.
The judge noted that the exparte order he granted on 10th May, elapsed on May 24, and therefore advised Esom to go to the DSS to demand Ubah’s release.
Going further in the ruling brought pursuant to Section 292(2), the court observed that the section of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which Esom hinged the application, was wrong.
Justice Haliru said the only basis for the court to grant Uba’s request was “if the application was predicated on health grounds.”
“There are proper provisions of ACJA 2015, for which the application would have been filed, but this section used was a wrong one. Ubah’s application cannot be allowed to fly at this juncture because the DSS secured a valid court order to detain him. The order was lawfully obtained, and there was no suppression of facts.
“Consequently, the application is refused and hereby dismissed,” the court held.
In her reaction, Uba’s lawyer, however, informed the court of her application brought, pursuant to Section 296 (3) of ACJA, seeking Ubah’s bail.