Prior to public revelation of Justice Yunusa's involvement in unethical practices with Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), bordering on transfer of funds for inexplicable reasons and telephone conversation, The Civil Society Network Against Corruption had done a compilation of cases where the Judge had consciously granted injunction to Criminal Suspects against anti-corruption agencies, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The allegation borders on judicial abuse, compromise, and misconduct, which was levelled against Justice M N Yunusa of Federal High Court, Lagos Division by the Network.
The network referenced 7 cases involving the judge submitted a petition dated December 21st 2015 to the National Judicial Council for investigation. See copy of the petition attached.
On 16th March 2016, the (NJC) queried the Honourable judge, based on allegations contained CSNAc petition via a letter with reference number; NJC/F.3/FHC49/1/421 routed to Justice Yunusa through Justice Auta, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. Attached is a copy of the query. Subsequent upon Justice Yunusa's response to allegations contained in the petition by CSNAC, the NJC at its 76th meeting, which was held on June 2, 2016, constituted an investigation committee to look into the allegations and the Judge's response. An invitation was extended to the Chairman of CSNAC to appear before the committee at its sitting of June 27, and 28 at the NJC Building, Supreme Court Complex, Abuja by 10 am daily.
The Chairman of CSNAC was invited to come and testify before the committee on the scheduled date(s).
"He was also directed to come along with all supporting and/or necessary documents, witness(es) and counsel if there is any." Attached is a copy of the invitation.
At the sittings, the petition was able to convincingly proved the allegations against the judge during cross-examination by a team of counsel representing the counsel.
Unfortunately, the judge entered into the dock for cross-examination and inadvertently confirmed all the allegations in the petition. Find attached written address of the petitioner and reply to address by counsel to the respondent.
Finally, on Friday, July 15th, 2016, Justice M.N. Yunusa was recommended for summary retirement by the NJC, based on the recommendation of the investigation committee. He was found guilty of all the allegations raised in CSNAC petition against him.
The Petition That brought Down Justice Yunusa
National Judicial Council,
Supreme Court Complex,
Three Arms Zone,
December 21st 2015
PETITION AGAINST HON. JUSTICE M. N. YUNUSA OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT, LAGOS DIVISION FOR ABUSE OF POWERS
Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) is a coalition of over hundred and fifty Anti-corruption organizations whose primary aim is to constructively combat corruption vigorously and to ensure the effective monitoring of the various Anti-graft agencies in the fight against corruption and contribute towards the enthronement of transparency, accountability, probity and total commitment in the fight to eradicate corruption in Nigeria. Under our Judicial Integrity and Access to Justice (JIAJ) programme, we have undertaking review of judgements and judicial pronouncements of Judges across the country, with a view to assisting the National Judicial Council in her historical fight against corruption in the Judiciary.
In Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1471/2015 Mr. Simon John Adonmene & 3ors v Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed on the 21st day of September, 2015 before Honourable Justice M.N. Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division, the Applicants sought amongst other reliefs the following:
A Declaration that the Respondent whether by itself, staff, agents, employees, servants, officers and men under its supervision, direction and/or control is not entitled to howsoever invite, interrogate, intimidate, harass, arrest, detain, arraign, restrict the movement of the 1st Applicant and other officers of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Applicants without lawful justification.
An Order of Mandatory injunction restraining the Respondent by itself, staff, agents, employees, servants, officers and men from howsoever inviting, interrogating, detaining, harassing, intimidating, arresting, arraigning, and/or further inviting, detaining, harassing, intimidating, arresting, and/or declaring the 1st Applicant and /or any of the directors, staff, officers and agents of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Applicants as wanted persons.
An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondent, by itself, staff, agents, employees, servants, officers, and men from howsoever freezing, confiscating, depriving and/or further freezing, confiscating, depriving the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Applicants of access to, possession of and use of their assets and the funds in their account Nos 1018826127, 0020593842, 1771258695 and 1013983247 maintained with United Bank for Africa Plc., Sterling Bank Plc., Skye bank Plc. and Zenith Bank Plc. respectively.
A declaration that the Respondent and/or any of its staff, agents, employees, servants, officers, and men under its supervision, direction, and/or control is not entitled to and/or authorized by law to issue any directive(s) to any/all banks in Nigeria, in particular, United Bank for Africa Plc., Sterling Bank Plc., Skye Bank Plc., and Zenith bank Plc., to freeze the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Applicants’ account Nos 1018826127, 0020593842, 1771258695 and 1013983247 maintained with the said banks and/or howsoever continue to freeze the said accounts, without the leave of a court of competent jurisdiction.
In a ruling delivered on the 30th day of October 2015, Justice Yunusa granted all the orders as prayed thereby granting an Order of Perpetual Injunction against an anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Yunusa in similarly questionable circumstances granted an arbitrary injunction to Political Exposed Persons and other accused persons against the law enforcements agency. Some of these other cases are:
Suit No. FHC/L/CS/487/14 - FRN v. Michael Adenuga
Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1342/15 - Senator Stella Odua v. AG Federation, EFCC, ICPC and IGP.
Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1285/15 - Jyde Adelakun & Anor v. Chairman EFCC & Anor.
Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1445/15 - Dr. Martins Oluwafemi Thomas v. EFCC
Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1269/15 - Honourable Shamsudeen Abogu v. EFCC & Ors.
Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1012/15 - Hon. Teeth Dauzia Loya v. EFCC
The Supreme Court has held in a plethora of cases that the grant of perpetual injunctions against law enforcement agencies is a violation of constitutional provisions. In Kalu v FRN (2014) 1 NWLR (pt. 1389)526 Para D-H, the court held that interference with powers given to law officers by the constitution to carry out criminal investigations cannot be departed from by court injunctions. Also in Alhaji SaniDododo v EFCC (2013) 1 NWLR (pt. 1336) 510 Para A-C, the Court of Appeal held per Nwodo JCA as follows:
"The EFCC Act and the ICPC Act are enactments towards achieving the goal of abolishing corruption. The drive to abolish corrupt practices by established enactment and statutory provisions must not be extinguished in construction of the statutes. The intendment of the legislation must be conveyed andits provisions complied too."
Furthermore, in Chief Rasheed Ladoja v Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor (2014) LPELR 22432 (CA), the Court of Appeal also held:
“Anti-corruption Legislation is always construed to ensure that society is adequately protected against the canker-worm of corruption with its attendant destructive effect on the body polity of society.”
The grant of the orders of mandatory and perpetual injunctions by Justice Yunusa against the EFCC is a grave departure from the established principles in the aforementioned cases, as laid down by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal which are binding on the Federal High Court, being a lower court. Honourable Justice Yunusa, by the grant of these orders, has stripped the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions of its constitutional powers as a law enforcement agency, as well its powers under the enabling law, the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment) Act, LFN 2004, a Federal Legislation. It is also a gross abuse of his powers as a judicial officer.
These decisions, based on his Lordship’s refusal to abide by judicial precedents laid down by the apex court, will undoubtedly serve as a leeway for unscrupulous and corrupt individuals, who will stop at nothing to truncate their arrest, investigation and prosecution by the appropriate law enforcement agencies, to render our criminal law ineffective, as well as allowing corruption fester in the society.
In the light of the above, CSNAC is therefore by this petition requesting that the council carries out its constitutional role by immediately summoning Honorable Justice M. N. Yunusa on this matter and thereby ensuring that sanity is restored in the exercise of powers by judicial officers.
Attached is a sworn affidavit in support of this petition. Also attached are snippets of the above-listed cases for your review.
Thank you for your anticipated cooperation and prompt actions.
WRITTEN ADDRESS BY THE CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK AGAINST CORRUPTION.
By a letter dated 21st December 2015, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) requested the National Judicial Council to investigate the grant of the orders of interim and perpetual injunctions by Justice Mohammed Nasir Yunusa of the Federal High Court restraining the Attorney-General of the Federation, Inspector-General of Police, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as well as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from arresting, investigating and prosecuting some persons accused of corruption. In support of the said petition the CSNAC has listed seven cases in which such orders were granted by the Honourable Justice Yunusa.
In his reply dated 6th April 2016 the Honourable Justice Yunusa denied the allegations and explained the circumstances under which he granted the said orders. The judgments delivered in 6 of the cases and the order striking out the 7th case are attached to the reply of his lordships.
The only witness called by the petitioner, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, the chairman of the coalition adopted the petition and gave oral evidence. He was cross-examined by the Counsel to the Honourable Justice Yunusa. In his own defence Justice Yunusa gave evidence and was cross-examined by the petitioner's counsel.
Issues for Determination
Whether the allegation that the Honourable Justice Mohammed Nasir Yunusa granted orders of interim and perpetual injunction restraining the Attorney-General of the Federation, Inspector-General of Police and anti-graft agencies from arresting, investigating criminal suspects accused of corrupt practices and other economic crimes in the cases listed in the petition.
Review of Evidence
In his evidence before the Honourable Committee members, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, the Chairman of the Civil Society Coalition adopted the petition. In response to the claim of Justice Yunusa that “the petitioners have no genuine grievance except acting a script to portray his good image in bad light” Mr. Suraju stated that the coalition had, in 2013, petitioned the National Judicial Council over the order of perpetual injunction granted by another judge of the Federal High Court in favour of Dr. Peter Odili, ex-governor of Rivers State.
While expatiating on the petition, Mr. Suraju insisted that the orders of interim or perpetual injunctions granted in favour of the politically exposed persons and other criminal suspects have frustrated the anti-corruption policy of the Federal Government.
In the review of each of the 7 cases under cross-examination, Justice Yunusa admitted that he gave orders of interim or perpetual injunctions to shield all the criminal suspects from arrest, investigation and prosecution. But under cross-examination, Justice Yunusa confirmed the allegation of the Petitioner.
1. The Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Adonmene & 3 Ors. (Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1471/2015)
Justice Yunusa granted reliefs 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8. It is important to note that relief 7 is a mandatory injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from inviting, interrogating, arresting, arraigning and/or declaring any of the directors, staff, officers and agents of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Applicants as wanted persons.
Relief 8 is a perpetual injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from howsoever freezing, confiscating, depriving and/or further freezing, confiscating and depriving the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Applicants of access to, possession of and use of their assets and the funds in their Account Nos: 1018826127, 0020593842, 1771258695 and 1013983247 maintained with United Bank for Africa Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc respectively.
2. Jyde Adelakun v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission & Anor (Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1445/2015)
His Lordship granted reliefs A,B,C and F. Unlike the case of Adelakun the reliefs are not set out in the judgment. However, his lordship agreed that he also granted an order of perpetual injunction in favour of the Applicant. Even though the orders granted are not contained in the judgment they can be gleaned from his Lordships written defence where he stated:
“That after finding that the arrest and detention of the Applicant was unconstitutional and illegal, I went further to de-freeze the account and directed that Applicants passports be released to them.”
3. Dr. Martins Thomas v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1445/2015)
In the judgment, reliefs 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 were granted by Justice Yunusa. Although the reliefs are not stated Justice Yunusa admitted that he had ordered the EFCC to release the $2.2 million seized at the airport on the ground that no law forbids anyone from moving any amount of money in the country! Contrary to his Lordships’ contention Section 1 of the Money Laundering Act 2011 (As amended) cited in the judgment provides as follows:
“No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding:-
(a) N5,000,000.00 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual; or
(b) N10,000,00.00 or its equivalent in the case of a body corporate.”
Curiously, Justice Yunusa disclosed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has not released the money even where the Applicant has not filed any contempt proceedings before him. This answer suggests that his lordship has been following the release of the said sum of $2.2 million for a purpose outside his judicial involvement in the case.
4. Abogun v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission & 3 ors. (Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1269/2015)
The 7 reliefs sought by the Applicant were granted. Relief VI is an injunctive relief restraining the Respondent, their officers, agents, servants and/or privies from further interfering with the Fundamental Rights of the Applicant to liberty and fair hearing.
5. Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Adenuga (Suit No: FHC/L/CS/487/14)
Although the Applicant had been charged at the Lagos High Court, Justice Yunusa continued to hear motions in the matter. Under cross-examination, Justice Yunusa denied knowledge of the pending criminal case in the Lagos High Court. But in his written defence his lordship had stated as follows:
“That the Respondent was then arraigned before the Lagos High Court, that the Court upon hearing application to discharge the interim order released the property and set aside the interim order.”
In the circumstance, the Honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court deemed it fit to reassign the case to another judge of the Federal High Court. This was confirmed by Justice Yunusa, who stated further in his written defence that “The request for reassignment was granted, and the matter was accordingly re-assigned to another Court.”
6. Stella Oduah v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission & Ors. (Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1342/2015)
Justice Yunusa agreed that the threat of arrest did not occur in Lagos but Abuja. Justice Abang, who took over the case, dismissed it on the basis that the Federal High Court in Lagos had no jurisdiction as the violation of her fundamental right did not take place in Lagos.
Having heard and determined many applications pertaining to fundamental rights justice Yunusa knew that a violation of fundamental rights could only be challenged in a High Court in a State where it occurred. In defending the order staying further action in Stella Oduah’s case his Lordship referred to the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009. Order II Rule I of the Rules provides as follows:
“Any person who alleges that any of the Fundamental rights provided for in the Constitution or African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and to which he is entitled, has been, is being, or is likely to be infringed, may apply to the court in the State where the infringement occurs or is likely to occur, for redress.”
7. Loya v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission –(Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1012/2015)
Although the case was struck out on 3/12/2015, Justice Yunusa admitted under cross-examination that he had on 2/7/2015 granted an order ex parte restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from arresting and investigating the applicant. This means that the EFCC was restrained from performing its statutory duty for over 5 months.
It is crystal clear that Justice Yunusa On page 22 of the judgment in the case ofAdelakun v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission & Another (supra)Justice Yunusa quoted the Court of Appeal in the case of Attorney-General, Anambra State v. Uba (2005) 15 NWLR (PT 947) 44 at 50 where it was held:
“For a person, therefore, to go to court to be shielded from criminal investigation and prosecution is an interference of powers given by the Constitution to law officers in the control of criminal investigation. In the instant case, the 1st respondent has no legally recognizable right to which the court can take cognizance right to which the court can come to his aid. His claim is not one the court can take cognizance of for it has disclosed no cause of action. The 1st Respondent cannot expect a judicial fiat preventing a law officer in the exercise of his constitutional power…
Of particular importance is the injunctive relief sought by the plaintiff is contained in relief IX in the statement of claim. In effect, the 1st Respondent is asking the court to shield him from criminal investigation and prosecution.”
In Abogun v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission & Anor (supra) his lordship referred to the case of Mallam Abdullahi Hassan & 4 Ors. v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (2014) 1 NWLR (PT 1389) 616 where the Court of Appeal held:
“No Court has the power to stop the investigative powers of the Police or EFCC or any agency established under our laws to investigate crimes where there is reasonable suspicion of commission of crime or ample evidence of the commission of an offence by a suspect.”
In at least two of the cases the case of Fajemirokun v. Code of Conduct Bureau was also cited and acknowledged by Justice Yunusa. In that case, the Supreme Court held inter alia:
“In this case, the proper custody, without doubt, is with the Federal Electoral Commission. (See s. 72 of the Electoral Act)
But that is not the issue in this case. The issue is admissibility. I think that admissibility should be based on relevance and not proper custody. Once a matter, be it a document or oral evidence is relevant, it is admissible. Proper custody only raises the issue of presumption, or, to put it more clearly, the weight to be attached to the evidence, documentary or otherwise, after admission. For evidence, documentary or otherwise to be admissible, it is sufficient that proper ground of its relevance is laid.”
In flagrant disregard for the injunctions of the appellate courts in the above-mentioned cases, Justice Yunusa has admitted that he granted order interim and perpetual injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Attorney-General of the Federation and Inspector-General of Police from arresting, investigating and prosecuting. He also ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to defreeze accounts and release funds which were suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The allegation of the Petitioner is that the Honourable Justice M.N. Yunusa engaged in misconduct by:
1. Communicating with the Applicants’ Counsel Mr. Rickey Tarfa SAN through regular telephone and exchange of SMS while Suit Nos: FHC/L/CS/714/2015 - Mr. Adewale Adeniyi vs. EFCC & 2 Or; FHC/L/CS/715/2015 - Rana Prestige Industries Ltd &Anor vs. EFCC & 2 Ors and FHC/L/CS/716/2015 - Hair Prestige Ltd & 3Ors vs. EFCC & 2 Ors. were pending before his Lordship.
2. That the judgments given against the Petitioners were influenced.
In his reply to the query of the National Judicial Council the Honourable Justice M.N. Yunusa denied any misconduct. However, his Lordship did not positively and categorically deny the telephone conversations between him and Mr. Rickey Tarfa. All that his Lordship has said is that……
With respect, this is not a denial of an allegation. All that the learned judge is saying is that the gsm could be manipulated and not that the conversation between himself and Mr. Tarfa SAN were manipulated.
In proof of the allegation, the Petitioner relied on the fact that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission investigated the allegation of perversion of justice and since charged Mr. Tarfa to court. The newspaper reports of the charge and the on-going trial are attached. The petitioner has also attached the report of the investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on the illegal communication between Justice Yunusa and Mr. Tarfa SAN.
Justice Yunusa has questioned the information obtained by the Petitioner from the MTN, Cotonou, Benin Republic on the ground that it is not signed. We have produced the signed copy of the report of the investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which has formed the basis of ……………………….
Under the Tribunal of Inquiry Act applicable in the FCT the rules of evidence are relaxed to get to the root of any inquiry. Therefore, we urge this Honourable Committee not to place too much reliance on the Evidence Act. Even at that, the Supreme Court has held that:
In the light of the foregoing Justice Yunusa deliberately decided to hear the case even when it was clear that the violation did not occur in Lagos.