Federal High Court Judge Nnamdi Dimgba has ordered The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to unfreeze the account of Pinnacle Communications Limited and counselled anti-corruption agencies of government against taking drastic action that could prevent private enterprises from flourishing prior to concluding investigations to justify such action.
Delivering his ruling in the case instituted against ICPC for instructing Zenith Bank to freeze its account, the judge maintained that the anti-corruption war was as beneficial to the society as flourishing private enterprises pointing out that scuttling the operations of major private organizations like Pinnacle Communications Limited also sends negative signals to the international community about Nigeria’s business environment.
Justice Dimgba described ICPC’s action against Pinnacle Communications Limited as “an overkill just like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly” considering that even after six months since the case was instituted and despite lèeway provided by many adjournments by the court, ICPC could not file any charges against the company, emphasizing that it should not have frozen the account without establishing a prima facie against it.
The judge remarked that anti-corruption agencies should not based their actions on rumours or “beer parlour stories” but on thorough investigations that could sustain judicial scrutiny.
He held that freezing accounts of individuals or organisations by ICPC amounts to an administrative action of a federal agency which relevant sections of the constitution empower the Federal High Court to review for compliance with the law and obligations of such agencies. Justice Dimgba also ruled that an order freezing account could not subsist perpetually if it was meant to be temporary adding that the essence was to allow for quick conclusion of investigations, especially when it involves a major company playing a major role in the national broadcast sector which could be jeopardized.
The judge however said ICPC could continue its investigations and present its case before a court which would decide if there is any basis to freeze accounts in future.