2023 poll fall out: Court fines Keyamo N10m for filing frivolous suit against Atiku

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Monday, awarded a N10 million fine against the immediate-past Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo for filing a frivolous suit against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s presidential candidate in the Feb. 25 election.

Justice James Omotosho awarded a N5 million fine each in favour of Abubakar and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), making it a total of N10 million fine against Keyamo in a suit he filed seeking to compel the commission to investigate corruption allegations against Atiku.

The judge on Monday in his ruling described the suit as “frivolous, vexatious and abuse of court processes,” and directed that the fine should be paid “at 10 per cent per annum until the cost is finally liquidated.”

The order followed an oral application by counsel for Atiku, Benson Igbanoi, and that of the ICPC, Oluwakemi Odogun, asking for cost after the suit was dismissed.

Recall that Keyamo was the spokesperson of the dissolved Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), and had while defending his principal in the heat of the election campaign went a step further and initiated the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/84/2023 on Jan. 20.

In the suit, he had sought an order compelling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to probe and prosecute Abubakar.

Keyamo’s legal action was based on the claims by a former aide to Abubakar , one Michael Achimugu, who alleged that between 1999 and 2007 when Atiku was vice president, he conspired with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to rip off the country using what he termed “Special Purpose Vehicles.”

The ex-minister filed the suit after the 72-hour ultimatum he gave the three investigating agencies elapsed.

He alleged that Abubakar was in violation of Section 18(2) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022, and Section 96(1) of the Penal Code, hence, unqualified to contest in Feb. 25 poll.

But Atiku (1st defendant), through his lawyer, filed a notice of preliminary objection, seeking for an order dismissing the suit for being incompetent, lack of locus standi, want of jurisdiction and for non-disclosure of reasonable cause against him.

The EFCC, ICPC and the CCB, in their separate preliminary objections, also challenged the competency of the suit and jurisdiction of the court.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Omotosho held that he had two issues for determination and that was whether the suit was frivolous and whether the relief sought by Keyamo could be granted.

The judge said the jurisdiction of the court was important also the locus standi of the applicant who filed the suit.

“Locus standi is the capacity of a party to institute an action. It interrogates what is the business of the plaintiff with the defendants

“The need for proper locus standi is to prevent busy body from instituting a suit and restraining them from wasting the time of the court,” he said.

He said though the court did not say that the ex-minister did not have a right to write statutory agencies to investigate Abubakar, but that he had not shown why he was affected by Abubakar’s action.

“A citizen of a country has a right to report crime and that cannot be an infraction on fundamental rights of any person.

“But the complainant is to complain to the statutory agencies and not to drag the 1st defendant with the agencies to court to seek an order to compel the agencies to investigate the suspect,” he said.

Justice Omotosho held that Investigating authorities had the discretionary powers to investigate any case and to know if such case would warrant any prosecution or not, citing previous cases to back his decision.

“The law is that the court cannot compel investigating agencies to perform their discretionary powers,’ he said.

The court was disappointed that the plaintiff would give the anti graft agency 72-hour ultimatum to investigate Atiku Abubakar and that he filed the action immediately after the 72 hours elapsed.

“The question is, is 72 hours sufficient for the investigation and conclusion of action of this nature. The answer is no,” he said.

The judge said that the plaintiff case was frivolous and an abuse of court process adding that “the plaintiff who is supposed to be a lawyer would think that a suit compelling a statutory body will success giving 72 hours?

“The plaintiff should know that these agencies are at liberty on when to investigate and when to conclude,” he said.

He said Keyamo acted as if he was “an errand boy.”
But Keyamo said in a statement on Monday that he will appeal the judgment.