Court Stops EFCC From Further Investigating Benue State Accounts

Samuel Ortom
Samuel Ortom

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court Monday restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from conducting further investigations into the finances of Benue State.

The court directed the anti-agency to suspend action pending the determination of the suit that was lodged before it by the Benue State Government.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba who sat as a vacation Judge, gave the preservative order on a day EFCC honoured summon the court issued to it on August 9, following allegation that it froze Benue State accounts.

Recall that the former vacation Judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri, had after he listened to submissions by counsel to Benue State Government, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, ordered EFCC to appear in court to explain why it took the action.

However, shortly after the summon was issued, the anti-graft agency defroze the accounts.

Though EFCC appeared in court on Monday through its lawyer, Mr. Slyvanus Tahir, Justice Dimgba said there was need for him to study the case-file that was transfered to him.

While adjourning the case till August 29, Justice Dimgba warned that none of the parties should take any action capable of destroying the subject matter of the suit marked FHC/MAD/CS/42/18.

Though the action was instituted in Makurdi, the plaintiff secured leave for the matter to be heard by the vacation Judge in Abuja since courts in Benue are currently on recess.

Aside the EFCC, other Respondents in the suit are the Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, the Clerk Benue State House of Assembly, Benue State House of Assembly, and the Auditor General of Benue State.

Specifically, the plaintiff had in an ex-parte motion it filed before the court, sought for a preservative order restraining EFCC from investigating the accounts of the state under any guise without due authorisation of the Benue State House of Assembly pursuant to section 128 and 129 of the Constitution.

It urged the court to among other things, determine, “Whether by virtue of Sections 6, 7 and 38(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act 2004 (EFCC Act) or any other law, the EFCC or any other body, authority or person beyond the 4th and 5th defendants has the power to investigate or inquire into the accounts and/or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of Benue State Government having regard to the clear provisions of Sections 1 ( 1) and (3), 125(2), (4) and (6), 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“Whether in the absence of any resolution duly passed by the Benue State House of Assembly authorizing the EFCC or any other body, authority or person to investigate and/or inquire into the accounts deor appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of Benue State Government, the EFCC or any other body, authority or person can lawfully and constitutionally embark on such exercise without breaching the clear provisions of Sections 1 (1) and (3), 125(2), (4) and (6), 128 and 129 of the Constitution.

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“Whether the continued invitations of Officials of Benue State Government, investigations and/or inquisitions into the accounts and/or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of Benue State Government by the EFCC or any other body, authority or person under any guise having regard to Sections 1(1) and (3), 125(2), (4) and (6), 128 and 129 of the Constitution do not negate the Doctrine of Separation of Powers as enshrined under Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution.

Upon favourable determination of the questions, the plaintiff is seeking, “A declaration that by the provisions of Sections 6, 7 and 38(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and any other law, the EFCC or any other body, authority or person does not have the power to investigate and/or inquire into the accounts and/or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of Benue State Government having regard to the clear provisions of Sections 1 (1) and (3): 125(2). (4) and (6), 128 and 129 of the Constitution.

“A declaration that in the absence of any resolution duly passed by the Benue State House of Assembly pursuant to Sections 128 and 129 of the Constitution authorizing the EFCC or any other body, authority or person to invmtigate the accounts or make inquisitions into the accounts and/or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of Benue State Government, the EFCC or any other body, authority or person cannot commence or continue investigations and/or inquisitions with respect thereof.

“A declaration that the commencement or continued invitations of officials of Benue State Government on account of investigation of Benue Government accotmts, investigations and/or inquisitions into the accounts and/or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of Benue State Government by the EFCC or any other body, authority or person under any guise without authorization by the 2nd to 4th defendants vide a duly passed eesolution negate the Doctrine of Separation of Powers as enshrined under Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution.

“A declaration that the continued invitations of officials of Benue State Government, investigations and/or inquisitions into the accounts and/or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of Benue State Government by the EFCC or any other body, authority or person amount to usurpation of the Powers of the Benue State House of Assembly and the Auditor General, Benue State, having regard to Sections 125 (2), (4) and (6), 128 and 129 of the Constitution.

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“A declaration that the demands made by the 1st defendant, invitations of officials of Benue State Government and subsequent investigations violate the express provisions of Sections 125, 128 and 129 of the Constitution.

“A declaration that the 2nd to 4th defendants are not permitted to surrender or share their powers of control over the public funds of Benue State as provided by the Constitution to the 1st defendant or any other body, authority or person.

“A declaration that the EFCC Act is an inferior; legislation to the Constitution and where any provision in the Act ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution, such provision becomes null and void and of no effect.”

The plaintiff equally prayed the court to issue an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants from surrendering\ or sharing their powers of control over the public funds of Benue State as provided under Sections 128 and 129 of the Constitution to the 1st defendant or to any other body, authority or person.

The suit was supported by a 35 paragraphed affidavit that was deposed to by one Samuel Orchir, who averred that the business of governance in the statesuffered tremendously owing to intermittent interferences and demands by the EFCC on officials of the Benue State government to furnish it with documents relating to the accounts and /or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of the state.

He told the court that some officials of the state were invited and detained by the EFCC, thereby denying the state of their services.

According to the suit, some of the officers invited for interrogation by the EFCC included the Permanent Secretary, Government House; Permanent Secretary, Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services; Mr. Kato Ijir; Secretary to the State Government; Mr. Agbo Omada (Assistant Director, Finance); Terwase Orbunde (Chief of Staff to the Governor); Dr. Dura Magdalene (Special Assistant Adviser on SDG’s to the governor) and Mr. Stephen Amase.