A Federal High Court, Abuja, has granted a request by the State Security Service, SSS, to keep the chairman, Capital Oil and Gas Ltd, Ifeanyi Ubah, in custody for another 14 days pending the completion of its investigation of the charges against him.
Efforts by Mr. Ubah’s counsel to have the Lagos division of the court to vacate the order also failed on Friday as the court said it would not make an order in the face of a “conflict situation”.
Justice Y. Halilu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, gave the order for Mr. Ubah’s continued detention following a motion exparte filed on May 10 together with an affidavit in support and deposed to by one G.O.A Agbadua, a senior legal officer with the SSS.
The Lagos division of the Federal High Court had on Tuesday ordered the secret police to produce Mr. Ubah in court on Friday.
The SSS on Friday took Mr. Ubah into custody on allegations of “economic sabotage” and diversion of petroleum products to the tune of N11 billion.
The petroleum products were stored by NNPC Retail in Capital Oil’s tank farm in Lagos under a throughput agreement but went missing under controversial circumstances.
Premium Times had exclusively reported the diversion which eventually led to the sack of the head of NNPC Retail, Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, and some other officials of the corporation.
At the resumed hearing, Mr. Ubah’s lawyer, Richard Oluyede, reminded the court in Lagos of its order for Mr. Ubah to be brought to court.
“The applicant has not been produced. Rather we were served this morning with a notice of preliminary objection and a counter affidavit to the application itself being filed yesterday.
“It will appear from the document that after the original processes were served on the 28th of April, the only reaction to that was to arrest the applicant from his house on the 5th of May.
“But after we had approached the court for an order for his production with Your Lordship’s order on the 9th of May, the 4th and 5th respondents went before the FCT High Court not for the purpose of preferring charges against the applicant, but merely to frustrate Your Lordship’s order for his production,” said Mr. Oluyede.
According to Mr. Oluyede, they did this “by obtaining on the 10th of May an order from the FCT High Court to detain him for 14 days in order to complete their purported investigation. And I submit that the 4thand 5th respondent have acted in a manner that’s in subversion of the dignity of the court.”
Mr. Oluyede further stated that “the proceedings taken to the FCT is an abuse of process and also an abuse of power.”
The counsel referred the court to the affidavit, obtained by Premium Times, where he stated that “as soon as the order to produce the 1st applicant, was served on the 4th and 5th respondents, he was placed under additional strictures and began to receive threats that unless he withdrew his action he would rot in the detention and members of his family including his children and wife would be arrested and detained.”
According to the document, “he was told that the court’s order would not be obeyed and it was in his best interest to withdraw the action.
“After being in custody for over a month, he was coerced to sign some documents. First to sign a document for discontinuance upon threat to family and himself, he was then coerced into signing documents of indebtedness to NNPC and pledging some of his assets to the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON”.
In his reaction, counsel to the SSS, Peter Okerinmode, told the court that “the alleged arrest and detention of the 1st applicant occurred in Abuja on the 5th of May and that no infringement of the 1st applicant’s right occurred in Lagos State.”
“The relief sought by the 4th and 5th respondents, challenges the jurisdiction of this court to hear and determine this case and that the court in Lagos State lacks the jurisdiction to hear and determine any alleged infringement of the fundamental human right of anybody in Abuja,” said Mr. Okerinmode.
In response on point of order, Mr. Oluyede said: “My learned friend fails to realize that the order made by this court to produce the 1st applicant is extrinsic and their failure itself is a separate proceedings. They have subverted this court order and saying the court lacks jurisdiction but have failed to comply with the order of this court.
“The dignity of the court is paramount than jurisdiction and I urge this court to release the 1st applicant unconditionally,” Mr. Oluyede said.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Mohammed Idris said he would act with “great caution” in the matter.
“From the record of this court, it is clear that the 4th and 5th respondents were served with the order of this court on the 10th day of May, 2017 at 10:00hours.
“It appears that on the same date, that is, 10th of May, 2017, 4th and 5th respondents obtained from an FCT High Court an order made by Justice Halilu to have them detain the 1st applicant in the custody of the 4th and 5th respondents for an initial period of 14 days pending the completion of the investigation.
“A conflict situation has been created. I will not make an order for the release of the applicant pending the completion of the 14 days,” he added.
The judge adjourned till May 18 for continuation of the matter.