- Category: Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye Esq.
- Published on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 14:05
- Written by Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
Lagos: Dear friends: This is my initial update for this week in Nigeria. Thanks to those of you who have sent your best wishes and concerns for me, urging me to stay safe and to be careful about my movements in Nigeria. I arrived in Lagos on Sunday
evening. I spent the first night in Lagos and proceeded to Abuja with the first flight on Monday, straight to the Federal Capital Territory High Court, where I have the Criminal Breach of Trust charge for 1.55 million dollars pending.
You will recall that in May of 2011, after the EFCC refused to release me when ordered by the court to do so, my lawyers filed a motion for contempt seeking to commit the Attorney General of Nigeria and Mrs. Farida Waziri to imprisonment for disobedience of court order. That motion has been pending for a determination since then. We had hoped that the court would rule on that motion on May 21. What the decision of the court will be on that matter is unknown. I do have an idea. But it is important that I do not preempt a judge. Let’s leave the judgment to bear the full respectability that a judgment of the court should enjoy. But as we wait, we bear in mind the following three factors: (a) Mrs. Waziri is no longer the Head of the EFCC, (b) Though it is the same Attorney General, he is on a new appointment after a general election. (c) I was released from detention after the motion was filed but before it could be ruled upon.
The expected ruling could not occur on May 21, 2012 because the EFCC and their lawyers did not show up in court. So, the case has been adjourned till July. Also, you may know that last year, my lawyers had separately filed a motion seeking to quash this charge on the ground of lack of territorial jurisdiction. That motion has not yet been moved. That would probably come after the court rules on the motion for contempt.
I am back in Lagos to prepare to appear in the Lagos High Court. You will recall that my lawyers had moved a motion to quash the case filed in Lagos. On the previous court date, my lawyers had presented a motion seeking to quash the charges on the ground that none of the elements of the alleged offense occurred in Nigeria. This was a preliminary motion, which does not touch the merits of the allegations. The only question was whether a Nigerian court could hear the case in view of the fact that all that was said to have happened could only have occurred in the United States. It is now for the judge to make a determination on that preliminary question only. Again, I have my fears and hopes on how the court is likely to rule given all the factors at play. However, it is important not to preempt the judgment. If the court decides that it has jurisdiction, then we advance either to a trial on the merits or do something else. In any case, I remain innocent. And if the court determines that it has no jurisdiction, then the case would be over at that preliminary stage.
As for the remaining charge, which is termed Refusal to Declare Assets, cross-examination of the EFCC’s witnesses will continue in July. What to expect procedurally will be that at the end of the examination of their witnesses, the court will allow me to either move a motion or to open my defense. I intend to move a motion.
All the above projections will depend on whether the Nigerian Government detains me again or not. The Government and the EFCC are as desperate as ever to shut me up. The scope of disagreement between them and me continues to widen, rather than shrink. I continue to question the sincerity of the Government in the area of rule of law, liberty and anti-corruption reforms. I also continue to demand justice for the abuses, extreme cruelty and maltreatment I suffered in their hands last year. I continue to speak out against the abuses they have meted out against many other Nigerians. The more I question them, the more desperate they become and the more determined they are to muscle and suppress me. Every move I make is fraught with danger of retaliation by an excessive, corrupt and power-drunk Executive arm of the Government. If I am detained again, I hope that the good people will come to my aid again by simply demanding for justice, as you did in the past.
I must also use this opportunity to point out the fact that I have been spending approximately $17,000 a month in traveling twice each month to Nigeria to stand trial. There was never any need to have three cases going on against me at the same time, except to wear me down and inflict huge and backbreaking expenses on me. Not only do I lose time in the process, I have to bear the cost of attorneys’ fees and travel expenses. My detractors have been quick to point that I am broke. I am not too ashamed to admit that fact. Indeed, the behavior of the Nigerian Government has caused me to lose millions of dollars to a point where I am broke and needing help from friends and well-wishers while facing jeopardy.
Before I end this update, there is something I needed to clarify. It was recently reported in one of the leading Nigerian on-line news portals that I had sued the Nigerian Government for the sum of 4 million dollars. Even though the body of the story is fairly accurate, the heading gave the impression that I had sued the Government of Nigeria for as little as 4 million dollars. What actually happened was that I asked for sanctions against the Government. Any amount involved in that effort has to do with sanctions only in that case. The lawsuit I plan against the Government, whenever that comes, will be seeking for about 40 million dollars.
Thank you all once again! And God bless.
Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire