A lawyer, Mr Rickey Tarfa, on Wednesday sought N500m damages from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged malicious prosecution.
Tarfa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), made the application through his counsel, Mr Jelili Owonikoko (SAN), in a no-case submission he brought before an Igbosere High Court in Lagos.
Tarfa had brought the application in response to the alleged bribery and attempt to pervert the course of justice charge brought against him by EFCC.
He told the court that the 26 counts brought against him by EFCC were malicious.
He prayed the court to make an example of the anti-graft agency and “slam the hammer” on it with N500m damages award to him.
The lawyer has been standing trial since March 2016 and on Oct. 23, 2017 the agency closed its case against him.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, Tarfa’s counsel, Owonikoko, urged the court to see the prosecution as malicious.
He said that Tarfa was entirely within his constitutional right to remain silent and did not violate the EFCC Act, on which the agency based its claim that Tarfa “refused and failed” to declare his assets.
On the allegation that the defendant lied about his age during interrogation on Feb. 5, 2016 at the commission’s Lagos office, Owonikoko said there is a difference between falsehood and mistake.
He said Tarfa made a mistake, which the EFCC ought to have drawn his attention to rather than springing a surprise on him by making the mistake a basis for a criminal charge.
Owonikoko also contested the charge that the defendant offered gratification to Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa.
He said that among others, EFCC failed to link Nganjiwa with the deposits made by Tarfa to the accounts of a firm, Awa Ajia Nigeria Ltd.
According to him, Tarfa “has never handled a case before Justice Nganjiwa.”
He suggested that the EFCC ought to have invited Nganjiwa to explain the reasons for the deposits in Awa Ajia Nigeria Ltd’s account of which he was a signatory.
“The specific ingredients were not proven. It is not as if the prosecution did not make an attempt, but that attempt was so woeful,” Owonikoko submitted.
He said the defendant’s reputation and occupation had suffered.
“The defendant has been put on permanent self-suspension. He has over 100 lawyers in his firm….We urge the court to slam the hammer and give the right message against malicious prosecution,” Owonikoko said.
But EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo opposed Tarfa’s no-case submission, “because it amounts to contesting the obvious.
“I am passionately urging my lord to dismiss this application and call on the defendant to explain the allegations that we have proved against him.
“It is beyond argument that failure to declare an asset is an offence under the EFCC Act.”
He said asking a suspect to declare his asset did not infringe his constitutional right to remain silent.
“The prosecution is not expected to establish the guilt of the defendant, only to show that there is a prima facie case against the defendant,” Oyedepo said.
Justice Adedayo Akintoye, after listening to all the arguments, adjourned the case until Feb. 9 for ruling.