An Abuja division of the Federal High court has ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Related Commission (ICPC) to pay the sum of N10 million to Mr Ibe Emmanuel Ibe, a public servant, over malicious prosecution.
The presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that ICPC acted beyond the scope of its statutory duty when it filed a charge against Mr Ibe and put him through three years of prosecution.
The judge also held that the ICPC, in the course of the trial, caused unnecessary discomfort and disruption in the life and career processing of Mr Ibe.
Mr Ibe was the Director, Finance and Administration at the Police Services Commission (PSC) until September 30, 2016, and also the acting secretary of the PSC up to July 2016.
Mr Ibe told the court that on April 12, 2016, he was invited to make a written statement regarding a petition against the Chairman of the PSC. At that time, the presidency was considering his CV for appointment as the substantive secretary to the PSC.
Mr Ibe was prosecuted by the ICPC on a nine-count criminal charge bordering on corruption, fraud and dishonesty. The Matter lasted from October 21, 2016, and was concluded on February 4, 2019.
During the trial, his name was dropped from the list of persons to be considered for the role of the substantive secretary to the Police Service Commission and another person was posted from another ministry to take his place.
The PSC and the Head of Civil service of the federation were under pressure to have him suspended from duty pending the outcome of the prosecution.
According to him, the PSC only yielded to his redeployment from the position of Director Finance and Administration to the position of Director Zonal Office Coordination.
However, after the Trial, The FCT High court in its judgement, discharged and acquitted Mr Ibe of all charges proffered against him by ICPC.
He claimed he incurred the sum of N5 million as legal fees to defend himself.
Mr Ibe in turn instituted a suit marked:FHC/ABJ/CS/379/2019 against ICPC over malicious prosecution that led to the destabilisation of his career and demanded the sum of N500 million as general damages.
He claimed that he lost his promotion to the post of Permanent Secretary to the police service commission because of the act of the defendant.
The defendant( ICPC) submitted that it investigated a report of payment of public funds to public officers embarking on official assignment to the tune of N275 million as duty tour allowance of which the plaintiff (Mr Ibe) was invited with other persons to explain their roles.
According to ICPC, The investigation revealed that the Plaintiff (Mr Ibe), who was the Director of Finance and Administration at the time, failed in his duty as the custodian of funds to advise the management of the PSC on the dictates of the financial regulations, public service rules and other extant regulations guiding expenditure and payment of allowances in the public service.
ICPC claimed it was not aware of the Plaintiff’s aspiration to become the Permanent Secretary of the PSC and at that time, was only discharging its statutory duties as enshrined in its establishment Act.
Justice Ekwo held that the prosecution of the plaintiff done by the defendant which started in 2006 and ended in 2019 was a disruption in the plaintiff’s career as the prosecution (ICPC) failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Now, from the judgment of the Court (Exhs. PW1-A9-A34), the prosecution (ICPC) failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This means there was no basis for the prosecution of the plaintiff (Ibe) by the defendant (ICPC) going by the uncontroverted facts of this case.”
“In other words, the defendant acted beyond the scope of its statutory duty when it filed a charge against the plaintiff and proceeded to put him through three years of prosecution which ended in his discharge and acquittal at the conclusion of the proceedings.”
While answering the question, as to if the act of the defendant (ICPC) occasioned any harm on the plaintiff,
the judge said “This was in my view, about three years after unnecessary discomfort and disruption in the life and career progression of the plaintiff. The effect that the prosecution has on the career path of the plaintiff cannot be quantified. Once malicious prosecution has been established, it comes with consequential damages,” the judge said.
“Upon weighing the circumstance of this case, I make an order awarding the sum of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) against the defendant as general damages for malicious prosecution of the plaintiff,”Justice Ekwo held.
What you should know
- ICPC has statutory powers to receive and investigate any report of an alleged conspiracy by any person or authority who commits an offence or offences under the corrupt practices and other related offences Act 2000.
- The plaintiff (Mr Ibe) is a public servant serving at the Police Service Commission.