N550m debt: Estate developer loses suit to stop EFCC arrest

The Federal High Court in Lagos has dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the Chief Executive Officer, Safetrust Mortgage Bank, Mr. Akintayo Oloko, to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from arresting him in relation to a debt of N550m stemming from a real estate transaction.

In a judgment last week, Justice Muslim Hassan dismissed Oloko’s case for lacking in merit, stressing that the court could not stop the anti-graft agency from performing its statutory duty.

The estate developer had in the suit claimed that he was being harassed by operatives of the EFCC at the alleged instance of a real estate investor, Mr. Kunle Ogunmefun, over a debt of N550m.

He explained that Ogunmefun, through his company, Currant Ltd., paid N550m between April 2014 and March 2015, as part payment for the purchase of a portion of Safetowers, a property being developed at Lekki Peninsula by Macbosh Properties Ltd.

According to Oloko, due to delay in the execution of the project, Ogunmefun decided to pull out and demanded a refund which, he (Oloko|) had agreed to pay in three installments, the last of which would be on December 31, 2017.

Oloko, however, claimed that before the expiration of the agreed payment date, Ogunmefun started to harass him.

He claimed to have been lured to the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, on August 25, this year by Ogunmefun, where operatives of the EFCC swooped on him.

He alleged that while he was handcuffed by EFCC operatives, Ogunmefun took his photographs with his mobile phone and circulated same on the social media to ridicule him.

Oloko said the EFCC operatives also seized the title deed of Safetowers Estate.

But Ogunmefun, in his defence, contended that Oloko failed to substantiate all his allegations.

He said, “The applicant failed to give the particulars of the social media handle where the alleged pictures were posted or attach a copy of the post.

“The applicant did not put in any evidence before this honourable court, showing the documents were seized by the second respondent.

“We submit that the applicants have failed to discharge the burden of substantiating their allegations with cogent evidence to entitle them to the relief sought in their originating motion,” Ogunmefun said in his counter-affidavit.

In his judgment on Thursday, Justice Hassan said the EFCC acted within the powers conferred on it by a combination of sections 6, 7, 8, 13, 41and 46 of the EFCC Act.

As to the seized title deed of Safetowers Estate, Justice Hassan held that the EFCC had the power to temporarily take over a property for the purpose of an investigation.

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