Rickey Tarfa sues MTN, EFCC, others for N5b; SERAP petitions UN

Rickey Tarfa

Embattled Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Rickey Tarfa, has filed a fresh fundamental rights enforcement suit against MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, for the alleged violation of his right to privacy.

Joined as respondents  are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), its Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, Mrs. Rashidatou Abdou and Mr. Femi Falana (SAN).

Tarfa claims that his right to privacy was violated when the call records/log on his phone with mobile number 08034600000 was allegedly accessed without his authority and made available to online media without any reasonable cause or a lawful court order.

The  EFCC had on February 5 arrested the popular lawyer and confiscated his two mobile phones and his Mercedez Benz SUV with Registration No. KJA 700 CG, on the allegation that he hid two alleged suspects of economic and financial crimes in his car to prevent their arrest.

Among other reliefs, Tarfa is urging the court to hold that it was unlawful for his iPhone 6 with mobile number 08034600000 to have been used in calling one Alhaji Ado in Kaduna on mobile number 08061272929 on February 9, 2016 while the said phone was with Magu and the EFCC without any reasonable cause or any court order.

He is also urging the court to hold that it was unlawful for the EFCC to access his bank details, client’s information, private and confidential information contained in his iPhone 6 with number 08034600000 and Samsung 6 phone with number 08077341616 without any reasonable cause or any court order.

He is urging the court to order the respondents to pay him N5bn for the alleged violation of his rights.

The suit was backed with a 134-paragraph affidavit, wherein Tarfa chronicled how the relationship between his client, Ghanhoue Nazaire, and the 3rd respondent, Mrs. Rashidatou Abdou, broke down in 2011 leading to the filing of a suit for the winding down of their company, Rana Prestige Industries Nigeria Limited.

Meanwhile, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday sent a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Monica Pinto, requesting that she should prevail on Nigeria’s National Judicial Council (NJC) to suspend Justice Mohammed Yunusa.

SERAP also urged Pinto to prevail on the Nigerian Bar Association (NJC) to ask its Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to suspend Tarfa pending the completion of any investigation and final determination of any trial on the matter.

The petition, dated February 19, 2016, and signed by the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, reads in part: “SERAP is concerned that despite these serious allegations of bribery and corruption, the National Judicial Council has failed and/or refused to suspend the judge involved pending any investigation and/or trial of the judge. Similarly, the Nigerian Bar Association has failed and/or refused to ask the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to suspend the senior lawyer involved pending the final determination of the case against him.

“SERAP is concerned that the allegations of bribery and corruption such as the alleged payment and receipt of N225, 000 threaten the very essence of the independence of the judiciary and the actors in the legal profession.

“Such allegations also severely undermine the rule of law, the public’s confidence in the judiciary, raise the cost for judicial services because litigation is driven by corruption instead of by the legal process, discourage people from resorting to the formal justice system, and ultimately victimise the most disadvantaged sectors of the population who do not have the means to play by the informal rules set by a corrupt system.

“The allegations also undermine fair competition and economic growth, as there is a clear correlation between the level of economic activity in a country and an effective judiciary combating corruption.

“SERAP believes that the NJC and the NBA are in the best position to tackle judicial corruption and corruption within the legal profession, and to ensure the application of appropriate disciplinary measures in cases of bribery and corruption such as the alleged N225, 000 bribe highlighted above.

“Indeed, both the NJC and the NBA have clear responsibilities to counter and combat all manifestations of judicial corruption and corruption within the legal profession. Therefore, the continuing failure by the NJC to suspend the judge involved, and the NBA to ask the LPDC to suspend the lawyer involved will continue to allow judicial corruption to grow, undermine the efforts of all other institutions of governance, and can lead to impunity.

“SERAP notes that article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the principle of equality of all persons before courts and tribunals and the guarantee of a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. However, the enjoyment of the right to a fair, effective and efficient administration of justice is impossible if the judiciary and the legal profession cannot act with integrity.”

The EFCC had dragged Tarfa to court for allegedly making phone contacts with Yunusa in a case before the judge.

The EFCC said Tarfa’s law firm, Rickey Tarfa & Co, paid N225,000 into Yunusa’s bank account.

The lawyer has said the money was contribution by Yunusa’s friends toward the burial of his mother-in-law.