A Nigerian woman, Mrs. Unyine Festus Udoh has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), seeking investigation into the activities of Justice Hamza Mu’azu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja.
Mrs. Udoh is alleging that her husband, Dr. Festus Udoh has been under the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a period of 5 months without trial.
In a 3-page petition, Mrs. Udoh accused Justice Mu’azu of “granting an indiscriminate ex parte order directing the perpetual detention” of her husband, whom she described as the “bread winner of the family”.
“My Husband, Dr. Festus James Udoh was first arrested by the EFCC on the 5th day of May 2021 on allegation of knowingly presenting two (2) forged bank drafts to Sterling Bank of Nigeria PLC, an allegation which he vehemently denied, but was however detained by the EFCC which refused to grant him administrative bail”, Mrs. Udoh said.
She added that her husband was released on bail by Justice Kawu of the Kubwa division of FCT High Court on the 19th day of July 2021, following a ruling on Fundamental Rights enforcement suit instituted against the EFCC.
“On the 10th day of August 2021, the EFCC traced and rearrested my husband and dumped him in detention till date without charging or arraigning him in Court.
“On the 3rd day September 2021, while my husband was still in detention, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Mu’azu, ruling on a motion ex parte, ordered that my husband and two (2) others (Mrs. Blessing Nkiru Ezenwa and Miss Favour Ezenwa, a serving NYSC Corps member be detained by the EFCC, ‘pending conclusion of investigation and arraignment’.
“The Order is intended to keep my husband perpetually in detention as there is no time limit in the said Order for the conclusion of the purported investigation. I know that it is unconstitutional and outside the powers of the Hon. Justice H. Mu’azu to Order my husband’s indefinite detention without his formal arraignment in court and without granting him the opportunity to make representations either personally or through his Counsel before making such Order as provided by Section 36(2) of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“I know that the judiciary has always frowned against indiscriminate grant of ex Parte Orders. My husband is now consequently being detained indefinitely and has been in detention of the EFCC for over a period of 5 months now. My husband and the entire family are suffering serious hardship and mental agony as a result of his continued unlawful detention”, she added.
Mrs. Udoh alleged that her husband is being detained “at the instance and pleasure of some powerful persons who are wrongly using the court to hold him to ransom”, urging the NJC to intervene and cause her husband to be released from “illegal detention”.
Meanwhile, a suit has been instituted at the FCT High Court, in an originating summon, seeking the setting aside of the order of Justice Mu’azu.
Alexander Oketa (Esq.), Counsel to Dr. Udoh in the said suit, is also seeking an award of N80m damages against the EFCC for detaining his client for months without proper arraignment.
Oketa is also seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC and the High Court from applying and granting ex parte orders to detain suspects, a practice he argued, is unconstitutional.