THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has erased the name of the founder of AITEO Group, Mr Benedict Peters from the Agency’s list of wanted persons published on the official website of the Commission on August 15, 2016.
The EFCC had declared Mr Peters wanted in connection with alleged fraudulent activities against the state.
But Peters headed to court to seek redress on the grounds that all the laid down procedures known to the law were not followed before the commission went ahead and declared him a wanted person.
After hearing the matter, the court ordered the anti-corruption agency to immediately remove the name of the billionaire businessman from their wanted persons list published on the commission’s website.
However, EFCC’s action on Tuesday is believed to be in compliance with the judgment of an Abuja High court, sitting in Bwari, delivered by Justice Othman Musa on March 22, 2018.
Though the judgment was delivered in March this year, the EFCC responded to the order of the court on Tuesday.
A source close to the founder of Aiteo group, who preferred anonymity described the action of the EFCC as a great improvement in the rule of law records of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the leadership of the agency under Ibrahim Magu.
Speaking to reporters in Abuja, a cross section of human rights lawyers, civil society organisations, Arewa Consultative Youth Movement, Ohanaeze Youth Movement, etc in an aggregate view, applauded President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami SAN and the EFCC leadership led by Ibrahim Magu for igniting the fire of submission to the principle of rule of law with their decision to comply with the order of the court.
They all described the EFCC’s action as a great confidence building for the Buhari led Federal Government and a plus in Magu’s quest to run an efficient agency rooted in the sacred principles of rule of law.
It would be recalled that Justice Musa had on the 22nd of March 2018, agreed that the EFCC has powers to declare somebody wanted but that it must be done in strict compliance with the rule of law and order of the court.
The court stated that since the action was done in violation of the provisions of the law, thereby hurting and infringing on the rights of Mr. Benedict Peters, it therefore declared the declaration of Peters as a wanted person/the uploading of his data on the website of the EFCC as unconstitutional and void.
More so, Justice Musa ordered the EFCC to immediately remove the name of the billionaire businessman from their website where wanted persons list are uploaded.
The EFCC had submitted that it declared the Aiteo boss wanted owing to his failure to appear before it to explain his role in the $115 million bribe allegedly given to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, during the build-up to the 2015 election.
The court, however, held that the EFCC was wrong to have declared Benedict Peters wanted without any prior order or leave of a court of competent jurisdiction.
Consequently, Justice Musa declared that the action of the anti-graft agency was “unlawful, illegal, wrongful, ultra vires, unconstitutional and constitutes a clear violation of the fundamental rights of Mr. Peter.”
The judge stressed that though the EFCC has the powers to declare any person wanted, but doing so without a valid court order is wrong.
Justice Othman Musa gave the ruling in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Benedict Peters, Chairman/CEO of AITEO Group, against the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for declaring him wanted on EFCC’s official website.