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Court restrains police from meddling with Edmark case

A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, on Monday July 25, 2022, has restrained the Inspector-General of Police and all police officers in Nigeria, from dabbling into the Edmark litigation currently before thethr court. By virtue of the order, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 2, and Lagos Police Commissioner are also estopped from meddling with the case.

Justice D.E. Osiagor granted the order after listening to arguments from human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN, who represented the Legal Secretary of Edmark and the expatriate members of staff of the company. The The Applicants in the suit are Mr. Donald Anih, a legal practitioner and legal secretary of the Edmark Group in Nigeria and two of its expatriate members of staff, while the respondents are the Inspector-General of Police, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State and Mr. Etim Maurice Anthony.

In the suit filed on July 25, 2022, the Applicants are seeking: A DECLARATION that the invitation of the Applicants by the police vide their letters dated 22nd July 2022 and others subsequent, at the instance, behest and/or instigation of the 4th Respondent, in respect of the operations, management and control of Edmark Direct Marketing Limited to which there is already a concluded Forensic Investigative Report dated July 18 2022 and a pending civil action, Suit No: FHC/L/CP/890/2022, instituted by the 4th Respondent, constitutes a flagrant violation of the Applicants’ fundamental rights, A DECLARATION that the threat of further invitation, arrest and detention of the Applicants by the police through their agents, servants, officers or otherwise howsoever at the instance, behest and/or instigation of the 4th Respondent, in respect of the operations, management and control of Edmark Direct Marketing Limited to which there is already a concluded Forensic Investigative Report dated July 18 2022 and a pending civil action, Suit No: FHC/L/CP/890/2022, instituted by the 4th Respondent, constitutes a flagrant violation of the Applicants’ fundamental rights, A DECLARATION that the 4th Respondent’s forceful invasion of the office and suite of the 1st Applicant and the residential apartments of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents on the 22nd June 2022 and 1st July 2022 respectively wherein he physically assaulted the Applicants and threatened further grievous harm against the Applicants, constitutes a flagrant violation of the Applicants’ fundamental rights, A DECLARATION that having regards to the Forensic Investigative Report procured by the police dated July 18 2022 in respect of the pre-signed and/or signed letter headed papers and operations, control and management of Edmark Direct Marketing Limited, the Respondents are not entitled to invite, investigate, arrest detain or prosecute the Applicants in respect of allegations of forgery of the 4th Respondent’s signature in flagrant violation of the Applicants’ fundamental rights, amongst others.

In the affidavit in support of the application deposed to by Mr. Donald Anih, he narrated the history of the Edmark health living products and the efforts of its founder and visioner, which has gained acceptance all over the world. He stated further that Mr. Etim Maurice Anthony had filed a Petition before the Federal High Court on May 18, 2022, as a minority shareholder, upon which certain ex-parte orders were granted in his favour on May 24, 2022, by Honourable Justice C. Aneke. The Edmark Group challenged the said orders on the ground that Mr. Etim Maurice Anthony misled the court and also concealed material facts, such as that at the time of obtaining the orders, he was indebted to the company to the tune of about N25m which loan he had not paid back. Another ground for challenging the ex-parte orders was that a minority shareholder with unpaid 5% share capital is not competent to obtain orders to appoint receiver/manager over majority shareholders of a company to which he is indebted, leading to a situation whereby a debtor to a company was able to move the court to seal up and freeze the bank accounts of his creditor, thus paralyzing the business and operations of the said company, including rendering over 200,000 distributors nationwide jobless, in the present harsh economy. On July 6, 2022, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa urged Justice C. Aneke to discharge the ex-parte orders, in that their subsistence will ruin the lives of many Nigerians and indeed their dependents. He stated that the company has not been able to pay the salaries of its workers and it has consignments to be cleared at the port with goods worth over $500,000:00 and they have expiry dates approved by NAFDAC. The ruling of Justice Aneke is being awaited.

Whilst the substantive petition is still pending before Aneke J, Mr. Etim Maurice Anthony was said to have invaded the premises of the Edmark Group to threaten the expatriate members of staff on July 1, 2022, whilst he also wrote a petition to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 2, Lagos, alleging that his signatures were forged. On July 18, 2022, the Nigeria Police Force, through its forensic department released the report of its forensic expert, indicating that the signatures being disputed were not forged and they were all signed by Mr. Etim Maurice Anthony, who thereafter still approached the police for a fresh investigation into the same allegation that had been probed and dismissed. Mr. Ani stated further in his affidavit that the same issue of alleged forgery of signatures was already pending before Justice Aneke for determination and thus the police should not seek to undermine the authority of the court.

In his order, Justice Osiagor restrained the police whether by themselves, their servants or agents from taking any further step (s) in compelling the Applicants, either by arrest and/or detention, to attend the scheduled meeting of 26th July, 2022 or any other meeting subsequently, convened by the police in respect of the operations, management and control of Edmark Direct Marketing Limited pending the hearing and final determination of of the Motion on Notice for interim injunction filed on 25th July, 2022.

The case was adjourned to 3rd August, 2022, for hearing of the Motion on Notice.

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