By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Godwin Obla, has described his invitation by the agency over his alleged default in tax payment as contemptuous.
In a letter by his lawyer, Dr. Joshua Musa (SAN), dated October 2, 2018, Obla argued that the matter is already before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The letter addressed to the Head, Legal Unit of the EFCC, and the acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu Obla contended that it was a disrespect to the court for the commission to take any further action on the case in the face of a pending order restraining the EFCC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) from further actions pending the determination of the suit.
Obla has represented the EFCC in the prosecution of many cases including the trial of former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji for alleged financial crime.
The former EFCC lawyer fell out with the commission over issues relating to disagreement about payment of professional fees amongst other undisclosed personal issues with the acting Chairman of the commission.
Dr. Musa, SAN noted that Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court granted a order against the EFCC and FIRS on July 25 this year, which was extended on August 9 staying further administrative actions in respect of the matter till the substantive suit is disposed off.
The letter reads: “In reaction to the activities of the joint investigation activities of the EFCC and the FIRS, which culminated in the issuance of a notice of tax assessment dated 21 May 2018, now subject of a pending objection (dated June 04 2018 and July 02 2018 respectively), my client instituted an action for judicial review before the Federal High Court (Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/762/2018).
“I am now informed by my client that he has come into receipt of a letter date 27th September 2018 and signed by one Mohammad Rabo, Zonal Head of the EFCC for Abuja, by which the EFCC has purported to invite him to attend an interview in furtherance to the so-called investigation ‘on the tax performance of Specialised Professional.’
“As you are no doubt aware, the direct and unequivocal order of the court is for the respondents in that action (the FIRS and EFCC) to stay all further administrative proceedings related to the subject matter of that action, until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“This includes any interview (s) session on the same subject matter.
It is our informed position therefore that, whilst this order of court, directing the stay of the administrative actions of the EFCC and FIRS remains valid and subsisting, neither the EFCC nor the FIRS can lawfully proceed to summon or request the presence of my client ‘in furtherance to the joint investigation by the EFCC and FIRS’ as the letter of 27 September 2018 purports to do. Such an action will be tantamount to contempt of court and a resort to self-help.
“As a legal practitioner yourself, you must be aware that it is settled law that where a matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction, all parties thereto must maintain the status quo until the court disposes of same.”
It is not clear if Chief Obla, SAN’s counsel, Musa, SAN will be proceeding to file a contempt proceedings against the Economic and financial crimes commission, EFCC, if they insist on the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria honoring their invitation.
Attempts by our Correspondent to get the reaction of Chief Godwin Obla, SAN reaction on the issue was unsuccessful as he directed all issues relating to the matter to his counsel, Dr. Musa, SAN.