A Federal High Court sitting in Jos, Plateau State has dismissed a suit filed by a lawyer in the State seeking to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from investigating him.
The EFCC was investigating the lawyer, Mr. Gideon Ngwen for allegedly diverting N100million belonging to some staff of Plateau Radio Television Corporation (PRTVC) Jos.
Mr. Ngwen had led a suit for the PRTVC staff to demand for their salary arrears amounting to over N180million. He shortly later secured a consent judgment with an additional N100million as damages for the staff.
The Principal Partner, Gideon Ngwen & Co. Solicitors and Advocates however allegedly declined to release the money sent to his account as part payment of the judgment sum, insisting that he had a share in it and must receive the entire fund before disbursement.
EFCC findings have however, reportedly found the money to have been transferred from the lawyer’s account, suggesting a breach of trust and possible mismanagement.
Ngwen who had threatened legal actions against the affected civil servants for demanding their money, filed a suit seeking an order of restraint against the EFCC and any other agency from investigating him.
He also demanded N200million as general damages from both the affected staff and EFCC for “undue” interference with his work and subjecting him to multiple investigations.
Justice Dorcas Agishi of Federal High Court 2, Jos, in her ruling on Wednesday held that the lawyer is not a Judicial officer. As such, the complainants have the right to complain against him, and the EFCC is statutorily empowered by Law to investigate him.
Justice Agishi posited that it is only through investigations that it would be established wether or not he breached trust and misappropriated the funds in his possession.
She therefore threw out the suit, empowering the EFCC to investigate him over the missing funds.
If found guilty, Mr. Gwen could face jail or a fine of not less than 100% of the funds and properties acquired as a result of the offence committed, and a withdrawal of its license.
Under the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2011 (As Amended) a corporate body such as Mr. Ngwen’s law firm is also liable on conviction, to a fine of not less than 100% of the funds and properties acquired as a result of the offence committed, and a withdrawal of its license.
Where the body corporate persists in the commission of the office for which it was convicted in the first instance, the Regulators may withdraw or revoke the certificate or license of the body corporate.
Mr. Ngwen has the right to appeal the judgement, but has not indicated interested to.