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Court orders EFCC to pay Saidu-Ali, photographer N5m for defamation

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Justice John Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has awarded N5 million in damages against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for wrongfully parading a photographer, Nasiru Saidu-Ali, popularly known as Kozzo, as a fraudster.

The incident occurred in May 2019, when the EFCC arrested the photographer from his Abuja home and posted his photos on their social media pages, along with those of other alleged internet fraudsters.

After proving his innocence, they released him, but Saidu-Ali sued the anti-graft agency for criminal defamation.

The photographer, through his lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi, demanded N100 million in damages from the EFCC, but after five years, the court, in a judgement delivered on March 22, 2024, awarded N5 million in damages against the EFCC and ordered the anti-graft agency to tender a public apology to the photographer.

Details of the court judgement were revealed in a Certified True Copy obtained by our correspondent on Thursday.

The CTC read in part, “An order of mandatory injunction is hereby granted, ordering the respondent, whether by themselves, their officers, servants, or agents, to forthwith remove the image and name holding out the applicant as a fraudster to the public from the respondents’ Instagram and other social media platforms.

“An order of mandatory injunction is hereby granted restraining the respondent, whether by themselves, their officers, servants, or agents, from further holding out the applicant as a fraudster to the public without judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction.

“An order of this honourable court is hereby granted directing the respondent to pay the applicant the sum of N2.5 million as exemplary and punitive damages for the unlawful publication of the applicant’s image on the respondent’s Instagram, amounting to a breach of his fundamental rights to privacy.

“An order of this honourable court is hereby granted directing the respondent to pay the applicant N2.5 million as general damages for loss suffered herein, amounting to a breach of his fundamental rights.

“An order of this honourable court is hereby granted directing that the respondents tender a public apology on their online social media platforms to the applicant.”

Meanwhile, following the judgement, the lawyer for the claimant, Pelumi Olajengbesi, reiterated that it was unlawful and amounted to an abuse of powers for the EFCC to have publicised the images of individuals arrested for alleged crimes when such persons have not been convicted by the court.

In an interview with our correspondent, the lawyer said his firm, Law Corridor, took up the photographer’s case pro bono, and after extensive legal proceedings before the Federal High Court, Abuja, justice was finally served.

Olajengbesi said, “Following numerous legal arguments and delays orchestrated by the EFCC, Justice John Okoro of Court 8 of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered the landmark judgement on Friday, March 22, 2024.

“The court deemed the EFCC’s actions unconstitutional, as they violated Saidu-Ali’s right to human dignity, encroached upon his privacy, and disregarded the noble and fundamental principle of presumption of innocence to have posted his picture on their social media.

“We’re happy that the court awarded N5 million in exemplary, punitive, and general damages against the EFCC. As you can see from the CTC, the EFCC was also ordered to publicly apologise to the young photographer.

“Even though we asked for N100 million, the court awarded N5 million and also granted a perpetual order against the EFCC from arresting the photographer again.”

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