Wrongful Funds Transfer: Bizwoman’s Rights Suit Against IGP, Others Dismissed

 

An Ikeja division of the Lagos High Court has dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit, filed by a Lagos-based businesswoman, Happiness Doosuur Akile, against the Inspector-General of Police and four others, for lacking in merit and without substance.

Apart from dismissing the suit, Justice Ijelu also ordered the businesswoman, who ply her trade under the name and style of UMZ Venture Resources, to pay the sum of N50, 000 each, totaling N200, 000, to the first and fourth respondents in the suit.

Others favoured by the orders of the court presided over by Justice Ismail Ijelu were: Lagos State Commissioner Of Police; It’s Osun State counterpart; Supol Eludire Clement and Olak Roofing Nigeria Limited, listed as second to fifth respondents in the suit numbered ID/14466MFR/2022.

The businesswoman in her fundamental rights enforcement suit against the respondents filed by her lawyer, I. N. Onyekwere, asked the court for the following reliefs: “a declaration that the threat to arrest and detain her by the respondents without any just cause at all or genuine allegation of having or being about to commit any crime amounts to infringement and breach of her fundamental rights. 

“A declaration that the blocking of her business bank account (Fidelity bank: Account no. 5600748621: UMZ Venture Resources) by the respondents without any just cause is unlawful, illegal and brazen violation of the Applicant’s fundamental right as entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). 

“An order of the court unblocking her bank account number 5600748621 domiciled with Fidelity Bank Plc in her business name, UMZ Venture Resources. 

“An order of perpetual injunction retraining the respondents, either by themselves, their agents, servants and/or privies from inviting, threatening to arrest and detain, arrest and detain her or block any of her bank accounts or disrupt her business at 385, Ikorodu Road, Ojota, Lagos State or anywhere at all. 

“General, Compensatory, exemplary and aggravated damages of N2, million naira) award against the respondents jointly and severally for the threat and actual violation of the Applicant’s rights.”

During the trial of the suit, the applicant told the court that on October 3, 2022, the fourth respondent came to her office at 385, Ikorodu Road, Lagos, in the company of other police officers and they they told her manager that while investigating a case of fraud and stealing against one Orisumbola Adekunle John, they traced the sum of N30 million, which was suspected to be part of the proceed of the stolen fund to her UMZ Ventures Resources account number 5600748621 domiciled with Fidelity Bank, and therefore needed clarification on the issue. 

The Applicant told the court that immediately her manager informed her of the development on phone, she spoke with the Police officers on phone and informed them that the said Orisumbola Adekunle John, who also trades under the name and style of Chriskayjay Ventures, has been her regular customer for a long time and that she had some of the receipts/ waybill of the goods he purchased from her. 

She told the court that the fourth respondent informed her that someone brought a complaint that he gave certain amount of money to the said Orisumbola Adekunle John to supply goods to him but he failed to supply all the goods and never returned the balance and that they traced some of the money to her (Applicant) account. Adding that her manager made available to the first to fourth respondents some of the duplicates of waybills and receipts for goods purchased from her by the said Orisumbola Adekunle John on different dates, including his last purchase on July 22, 2022 to the tune of N34 million, wherein he paid the sum of N30, 620,000.00 and still owed her the sum of N4 million balance.  
It was the case of the Applicant that she was very surprised that after making available these verified information and evidence of purchase to the 4% Respondent and his men, he called his manager on the phone on the 8 November, 2022 and threatened to arrest her and her workers and also shut down her business if she failed to return the said N30, 000,000.00 paid by Orisumbola Adekunle John for the goods he purchased from her. 

The applicant stated that she kept receiving calls of threat of arrest and incarceration from men and officers of the first to fourth respondents that if the said money was not returned, not minding that the said Orisumbola Adekunle John purchased goods from her in the course of her legitimate business. And that there is verifiable evidence to that effect, which they also verified and that in fulfilment of their threat of arresting, incarcerating as well as disrupting her business the Respondents went ahead to block her aforesaid bank account thereby making it difficult for her to trade, inflicting economic hardship on her for unjust cause. 

The applicant further told the court her fundamental rights are being threatened as well as violated, as a result of the actions of the men and officers or the respondents who wanted to extort money from her in the guise of investigation and she finds it difficult to go about her business and sleep in her house because of so much pressure, harassment and threats from the gun throttling men of the respondents that keep threatening her on phone and that since the respondents blocked her business account, she finds it difficult to trade, and have been thrown into extreme hardship.

She therefore urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought against the respondents.

The first to fourth respondents through their counsel, Barrister Morufu Animashaun, however, urged the court to dismiss the applicant’s suit, for being incompetent.

In urging the court to dismiss the suit, Barrister Animashaun in the first to fourth respondents counter-affidavit stated that contrary to the applicant’s deposition that the sum of N30 million received from one Orisumibola John Adekunle was payment for the purchase of roofing sheets, a petition dated  September 26, 2022 addressed to Commissioner of Police Osun State Police Command was received from one Barrister Kayode Ajibola on behalf of one Alhaji Ibrahim Olaiya, director OLAKS Ventures Nigeria Limited, on criminal allegations of fraudulent diversion/stealing of the sum of N105,… million against the applicant and one Orisumbola Adekunle of Chriskayjay Ventures. 

Barrister Animashaun further told the court that investigation revealed that on September 22, 2022, Alhaji Ibrahim Olaiya, director of OLAKS Ventures mistakenly transferred the sum of N105, 474 million, into Fidelity bank account number 5600676876 by two tranches in the sum of N100 million and N5, 472 million, which turns out to be the bank account of one Orisumbola Adekunle, trading under the name and style of Chriskay Jay Ventures. Adding that immediately Orisumbola Adekunle received the alert of the money in his account, he fraudulently transferred the sum of N30 million, to UMZ Building Ventures and the sum of N10 million, into the bank account of LIFE GOES ON operated by one Akanmu Waheed. 

The first to fourth respondents’ lawyer further Told the court that Orisumbola Adekunle having made the fraudulent funds transfers, removed his sim card from his phone and escaped to Cotonou in the Republic of Benin and on getting to Republic of Benin, Orisumbola Adekunle procured three (3) African Countries’ visas namely: Republic of Benin, Togo and Ghana and was about to procure visa to South Africa and that Interpol then through intelligence, tracking and with the assistance of law enforcement agents in Republic of Benin, Orisumbola Adekunle was apprehended and brought back to Nigeria. 

He told the court that the said Orisumbola Adekunle in his confessional statement volunteered on October 4, 2022, admitted to have received an alert in the sum of N105, 472 million, through his Chriskayjay Ventures with Fidelity bank account number 5600676876, on September 22, 2022 at about 4.00pm. Adding that the said Orisumbola Adekunle further admitted in his statement that he immediately transferred the sum of N30 million, to the Applicant (WIN WIN) UMZ Ventures, in Fidelity bank account number 5600748621, to order for roofing sheet for customer in Ondo state and made a transfer of the sum of N10 million, to one Akanmu Waidi to offset a debt and he used N18 million, to build a three (3) bedroom apartment in Ogijo, Ogun State, and used N3 million, to purchase a plot in Ogijo and the remaining sum he used to pay off debt. 

The first to fourth respondents’ lawyer further stated that it was in view of the findings that the Applicant was invited by them to state her own side to the criminal complaints but the she never honoured the invitation and that there was never a time they threatened her with arrest or threat of incarcerating the her nor was there any threatening calls to her.  

He also told the court that when the applicant willfully refused to honour police invitations, one Onyekwere N. Esq wrote a letter dated November 16, 2022 requesting for more time for UMZ Ventures representatives to honour the invitation. Adding that  rather than honour the invitation, the applicant filed this Fundamental Right suit. While it was discovered that the applicant upon receipt of the illicitly transferred sum of N30 million, and an attempt at concealing the origin of the fund, hurriedly prepared receipts of payments and transferred the said money to two different accounts same day of 22.4 day of September, 2022. And that it was such acts of dissipating the funds that Order was applied for and secured by fifth respondent in temporary freezing of the Applicant’s account in the interest of justice and fairness and for completion of investigation into the criminal complaints against the applicant. 

Lawyer to first to fourth respondents stated that the Applicant who never honoured the police invitation and was never arrested nor detained nor threatened with arrest could not indicate how her Fundamental Rights had been violated and that the Respondents did not arrest not detain her and had not threatened to arrest nor detain her and that her Fundamental Rights had not been violated. 

He told the court that the first to fourth respondents acted lawfully when it invited the applicant in the course of investigation of the criminal complaints of Conspiracy to commit Felony, Fraudulent diversion/stealing of the sum of N105,472 million, to state her own sides to the criminal complaints. Adding that this suit as it is presently constituted is an abuse of court process and an attempt to stall investigation of complaints made against the applicant and others who fraudulently diverted funds under pretence that such were meant for purchase and supply of roofing sheets and that the applicant’s fundamental rights had not been violated nor its breach threatened by lawful acts of the 1st to 4th Respondents. 

The fifth respondent in opposition of this suit, stated that he was informed about the applicant’s case by the third respondent as same is connected to the crime he reported against the applicant and one Orisunbola John Adekunle of Chriskayjay Venture, that he wrongly credited the total sum of N105, 472 million.

He stated that contrary to the applicant’s depositions, he knows as a fact that he had no business whatsoever with Orisumbola Adekunle John or with his business Chriskayjay Ventures, save for the said sum of money was wrongly credit to Chriskayjay Ventures’ Fidelity Account No. 5600676876, on September 22, 2022 in the sum N105,472 million. Adding that he took steps to recover the sum of N105,472 million, wrongly credit, one of such steps was applying to the court in Kwara State to recover the money and on September 26, 2022, the Court in Kwara State granted his application and ordered Fidelity bank to place a lien on the CHRISKAYJY VENTURES Fidelity bank account and transfer the total sum of N105, 472, million, wrongly credit to it by him.

He stated further that upon service and execution of the Court Order on Fidelity Bank, it was discovered that CHRISKAYJAY VENTURES had transferred the total sum of N40 Million wrongly credited to it to two different account numbers to wit; the sum of N30 million, to the Applicant herein with Fidelity Account No. 5600748621 and the sum of N10 million, to one LIFE GOES ON ROOFING ENTERPRISES with Access Bank Account No. 1603623645. 

He also stated further that contrary to the applicant’s depositions that the said Orisumbola Adekunle John trading under the name and style of Chriskayjay Ventures transferred the sum of N30 million, to the Fidelity business account No. 5600745621 of the Applicant, UMZ Ventures Resources and not Win Win Products enterprise (claimed by the Applicant) which has no nexus with the Applicant and the Applicant upon receipt of the stated N30 million, from Chriskayjay Ventures immediately transferred the said monies to two (2) different accounts on the same day. 

He therefore urged the court to dismiss that applicant’s suit with substantial cost. 

Justice Ijelu in his judgment, after putting all legal decisions on the arguments canvassed by lawyers, and every exhibits tendered before the court held that: “…….in the instant case, the Court finds that the question of curtailment of the applicant’s fundamental rights does not arise in any way or manner, as the applicant has not even alluded to any specific provision of the chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that has been violated or is being violated or likely to be violated. 

“An invitation to the applicant to come forward to say her side of the story in an investigation of a case in which her bank account has been fingered, cannot be said to be infringement of her fundamental rights. That is a figment of the appliant’s fertile imagination. 

“A citizen has an implied obligation under the Constitution to assist the law enforcement agencies to unravel crimes whenever he is called upon to do so. If every citizen rushes to the Court for enforcement of fundamental right just upon being invited by the security agency in a case where he speculates or fears he would be indicted, arrested or detained, anarchy will reign supreme in the land. The police cannot be stopped from investigating crimes. The society will suffer for it. The Court does not deal with speculations but facts. 

“The applicant has speculated that she would be arrested and made to refund the sum of N30 million, paid into her account from the proceeds of a crime committed by one Orisunmbola Adekunle, whom she regarded as her customer, and it was the speculated fear of this “arrest and detention” that has prevented her from honouring the police invitation. This is unacceptable in a community of persons governed by law such as ours. 

“The Court therefore, finds that the first-fourth respondents were well within their statutory functions in inviting the applicant. The applicant cannot use the Court as a shield against investigation by the police. Therefore, the Court finds that there is nothing unreasonable in the invitation to the Applicant by the 1st-4th Respondents. 

“In the final analysis, the applicant has not established any infringement of the rights cognizable under chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). It is apparent that this suit was not commenced to vindicate any fundamental right of the applicant but only to prevent the Police from taking further steps in investigating the criminal allegations in which her account with Fidelity Bank is suspect. 

Fundamental rights application cannot be used as a shield against criminal investigation and prosecution – Attorney General, Anambra State Vs Uba (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt 947) 44. The suit is an obvious case of misuse and abuse of the process of Court. 

“The suit is hereby dismissed with costs assessed at N50, 000.00 in favour of the first-fourth respondents on the one hand and fifth respondent on the other. This shall be the order of this Court.”