No ordinary letter: invitation letter as violation of fundamental rights?

 

Facts:

The 2nd and 3rd Respondents are customers of the 1st Respondent Bank in Port Harcourt from who they took some banking facilities. They alleged that the 1st Respondent had illegally overcharged them in the management of their account. They demanded a refund. The dispute was referred to the Chartered Institute of Bankers’ Committee on Ethics and Professionalism. Meanwhile, the 1st Respondent demanded the repayment of the facility taken by the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, failing which they were reported to the Police in Lagos who arrested and detained the 3rd Respondent. The 3rd Respondent was not released on bail until he was made to pay N2 million and was given a further date to report at the police in Lagos. The 2nd and 3rd Respondents thereafter filed an application in Court to enforce their fundamental rights. While that was pending, the 1st Respondent reported the 2nd and 3rd Respondents to the EFCC. The EFCC wrote a letter inviting the 3rd Respondent as Managing Director of the 2nd Respondent to appear before the EFCC in Lagos on the investigation of a case of bank fraud/diversion of depositors’ funds reported against them. The 2nd and 3rd Respondents applied again to enforce their fundamental rights. The Appellant contended that the 2nd and 3rd Respondents have only been invited through a letter and that nobody has threatened to arrest them. The trial Court dismissed the application but it was reversed by the Court of Appeal which granted the prayers. The EFCC appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

Issue: Whether a mere letter of invitation for interview sent to the 2nd and 3rd Respondents based on criminal allegation against them constitutes a breach of their fundamental rights.

 

Held per curiam: 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies are not debt recovery agencies. Accordingly, the EFCC has an inherent duty to scrutinise all complaints that it receives carefully, no matter how carefully crafted by the complaining party, and be bold enough to counsel such complainants to seek appropriate and lawful means to resolve their disputes. Otherwise entertaining such complaints arising or resulting from simple contracts or civil transactions would amount to abuse of process, in which case, the affected party who apprehends that his rights are likely to be infringed would be entitled to enforce his fundamental rights.

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission V. Diamond Bank PLC & Ors [2018] 8 NWLR (Pt.1620) 61SC @79F, G-H, 80A, C-E, G-H, 81A-C, D-G.

 

Saraki V. Kotoye [1992] 9 NWLR (Pt. 264) 156SC referred to.

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3,004 thoughts on “No ordinary letter: invitation letter as violation of fundamental rights?”

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