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Thursday, 22 February 2018

IGP, DSS, EFCC want court to allow search of Wike’s properties

IGP, DSS, EFCC want court to allow search of Wike’s properties

Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) and two Federal Government’s investigating agencies have asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to reject a prayed by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, stopping them from searching his properties.

The investigating agencies are the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The three are listed as respondents in a suit by the River State Governor, seeking among others, to prevent the search of his property and the execution of a search warrant against him by any of the agencies.

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The suit was filed last year in the wake of allegation that the governor compromised some electoral officials during the rerun elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

A number of INEC officials, from whom funds were allegedly recovered, are currently on trial before the Federal High Court in relation to their conduct during the River State rerun election.

Arguing IGP’s position yesterday, David Igbodo urged the court to dismiss Wike’s suit on the grounds that it was based on “mere speculation.”

Igbodo, a lawyer with the Nigeria Police Force, said: “The application is speculative because in the first instance, there is no search warrant attached to it.

“The only exhibit attached is the interview granted by Wike himself in which he made allegations that the police wants to search his house in Abuja.

“He made the allegation, but he did not attach the search warrant to prove it. Assuming without conceding that the police obtained a search warrant to search the Rivers State Governor’s house in Abuja; the question is: Can the police execute the search warrant without requiring his presence?

“The question has been answered by the Supreme Court and the answer is yes. The police can effectively do that without requiring his presence.

“So the government house of Rivers State in Abuja can be searched without the Governor’s presence, as there are security men there that can witness the search.”

Igbodo further submitted that the law allowed the police to gather evidence and investigate officials who had immunity adding that a search warrant was a process of obtaining evidence during investigation.

He admitted that the governor enjoys immunity by virtue of the provision of the Constitution.

Igbodo proceeded to argue that, the enjoyment of the constitutionally granted immunity by a governor cannot protect him from being investigated.

He added that during the process of investigation, investigators were allowed by law to gathered evidence against such a governor.

DSS’ lawyer, O. Atoyebi, who argued in similar vein, urged the court to dismiss the suit.

He contended that the suit was intended by the governor to prevent the service (DSS) from performing its statutory functions.

Lawyer to the EFCC, Mrs Elizabeth Alabi argued that hewr client was not a necessary party in the case.

Mrs Alabi, who urged the court to dismiss the suit, argued that the EFCC has no business in the suit and was wrongfully joined.

She prayed the court to award N100, 000 in compensation for his client, against Wike.

Lawyer to the governor, Sylva Ogwemoh (SAN) noted that the essence of the suit was the interpretation of a section of the constitution.

Ogwuemoh said: “The focal point of our summons is the interpretation of Section 308 of the Constitution as it relates to search warrant.

“A search warrant is undoubtedly a process of court and if that is the case, there is a breach of the absolute immunity that Section 308 confers on the plaintiff (Wike).”

He argued that under Section 308 of the Constitution the execution of a search warrant required the presence of the person to which the section applies and who enjoys immunity, and in this case, Wike, before the property could be searched.

Ogwuemoh while faulting Igbodo’s argument argued that the IGP’s lawyer’s argument that despite Section 308, the police was with the discretion to search the government’s house in the governor’s absence was against the law.

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On Igbodo’s argument that the applicant failed to attach the warrant in question, Ogwuemoh argued that since the suit only seeks the interpretation of a legal provision, there was no need to attach a warrant to the application.

After listening to partied, Justice Ahmed Mohammed adjourned to May 9 for judgment.

In the suit filed in June 2017, Wike, among other reliefs, wants a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 308 of the Constitution, the IGP, the EFCC and the DSS cannot apply for, obtain, issue or execute any court process compelling his presence.

He also wants the court to determine: “Whether the defendants can by the combined effect of Section 308 of the Constitution and Sections 149 and 150 of the Administration of Criminal Justice, apply for, obtain, issue or in any manner or form effectively execute a search warrant at the residence of Wike in Abuja or any of his residences without his physical presence in the course of the execution of such search warrant.”

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