Augustus Macaulay, an octogenarian professor at the United Bible University, Lagos, has sued the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission for what he termed the unlawful seizure of books belonging to the institution.
In the papers he filed through his lawyer, Mr. Ali Adah, before a Federal High Court in Lagos, Macaulay said the ICPC came after him on the allegation that he was operating an illegal university.
The octogenarian said he and the university’s Academic Manager, Mrs. Sandra Thompson, were arrested on April 27, 2016 and detained for three days without allowing them to see their families or lawyer.
Punch reported that Macaulay claimed that the ICPC seized from him 12 publications authored by one Prof. Paul Emeka of the university and kept in the university’s library for the purpose of teaching the students.
Macaulay, Thompson and the owner of United Bible University, Registered Trustees of Christian Soul Winners Worldwide, jointly sued the ICPC, demanding N10m as compensation for the alleged breach of their rights.
The plaintiffs’ counsel contended that it was unlawful for the ICPC to investigate his clients over the allegation that they were operating an illegal university, a case, he said, was already before the police.
Adah, who told the court that Macaulay had been on police administrative bail since August 2015, argued that it would amount to duplication of duty for the ICPC to be investigating his clients simultaneously.
Adah is also urging the court to void the ICPC’s directive, mandating Macaulay to report to the ICPC office every Friday at 9am to sign an attendance register, which he described as a violation of the octogenarian’s rights to freedom of movement, liberty and dignity of person.
A vacation judge, Justice Abdulazeez Anka, last week granted the application to hear the case during the ongoing court’s vacation.
The judge rejected argument by the ICPC’s lawyer, Atanda Oludiya, that there was no urgency in the matter to warrant its being heard during vacation.
Oludiya had pointed out that Macaulay was not in detention as he had already been granted an administrative bail by the ICPC, with the only condition that he should report to the commission’s office every Friday at 9am pending conclusion of investigation.
She said the ICPC had not in any way violated the octogenarian’s rights.
But Justice Anka pointed out that the ICPC had curtailed Macaulay’s freedom of movement by merely mandating the octogenarian to report every Friday at the ICPC office.
The judge upheld the plaintiffs’ lawyer’s argument that fundamental rights enforcement suits are by nature urgent.
After deciding that the matter was urgent enough to be heard during the court’s vacation, Justice Anka adjourned the case till September 6, 2016 for hearing.
However, when the matter came up on Wednesday, September 7, another vacation judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi, who had taken over from Justice Anka, said there was no need to commence hearing into the case during the court’s vacation which would soon end.
Justice Kuewumi said since he would not be able to conclude and give judgment in the case, it was better to return the case file to the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to reassign it to the judge before whom the case was originally filed, Justice Mohammed Idris.
Consequently, Justice Kuewumi adjourned the case till October 4, 2016 for hearing before Justice Idris.