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ECONOMIC & FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION v. DIAMOND BANK PLC & ORS

(2018) LPELR-44217(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 13th day of April, 2018

SC.868/2014


Before Their Lordships

OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

MARY UKAEGO PETER-ODILI Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMIRU SANUSI Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMINA ADAMU AUGIE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

SIDI DAUDA BAGE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

ECONOMIC & FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION - Appellant(s)

AND

1. DIAMOND BANK PLC.
2. PETRO CONTINENTAL (NIG) LTD
3. H.R.H. EZE (DR) PETER OPARA - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
FACTS:
This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division upturning the decision of Buba J of the Federal High Court, Port-Harcourt Division.
The 2nd & 3rd Respondents were customers of the 1st Respondent bank since 1994. The relationship continued until 2003 when the 1st & 2nd Respondents suspected some discrepancies in the management of their account with the 1st Respondent. They engaged a banking consultant to investigate, and it was allegedly discovered that the 1st Respondent had illegally overcharged the 1st & 2nd Respondents, in the management of their account, to a tune of N10,776, 921.19k refund of which they demanded. The 2nd & 3rd Respondents though not convinced, mutually agreed with the banking consultant that the matter be referred to the Chartered Institute of Banker's Committee on ethics and professionalism for arbitration. The matter was still pending there for arbitration when the 1st Respondent reported the 2nd & 3rd Respondents to the Financial Malpractices Investigation Unit of the Nigeria Police Force C.I.D Annex, Lagos. Consequently, policemen from Lagos came to Port Harcourt, arrested and detained the 3rd Respondent on 18th April, 2005. The 3rd Respondent was not granted bail until the policemen made him pay N2,000,000.00K to the 1st Respondent. The police further directed the 3rd Respondent to appear before them at Lagos on 10th May, 2005.
In the mean time, the 2nd & 3rd Respondents approached the Federal High Court for leave to apply for enforcement of their fundamental rights, which leave was granted. The 2nd and 3rd respondent thereafter sought the following reliefs:
(i) A declaration that the invitation of the 1st Applicant by the 2nd Respondent at the behest of the 1st Respondent is unlawful and a violation of his fundamental right to liberty and dignity of his person and a continuation of the harassment of the Applicants by the 1st Respondent in view of a pending action in this Court in suit no FHC/PH/CS/385/2005 between the Applicants and Diamond Bank Limited and 4 ors.
(ii) A declaration that the 2nd Respondent by the enabling Act establishing it, lacks the statutory power to function as a debt collector on behalf of the 1st Respondent or anybody for that matter in matters of commercial contract.
(iii) An order of Court restraining the Respondents from disturbing or interfering with the right to liberty of the 1st Applicant through further threat of invitation, arrest, detention, intimidation and unnecessary interrogation or in any other way or manner whatsoever."  
The 1st Respondent filed a Counter Affidavit. Appellant also opposed the application for enforcement of fundamental rights by filing a counter affidavit. The parties were heard and the trial Judge in his Ruling, dismissed the application. Dissatisfied, the 2nd & 3rd Respondents appealed to the Court of Appeal, which allowed the appeal and granted all the reliefs. Appellant thereafter appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
The sole issue for determination in the appeal is:
"Whether the Court below was right to hold as it did that a mere letter of invitation for interview sent to the 2nd & 3rd Respondents based on criminal allegation against them constitute a breach of their fundamental rights."

DECISION/HELD:
In conclusion, the appeal was dismissed.


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