EFCC lacks power to probe state fi­nances, says court

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - From Ay­o­dele Afo­labi, Ado-ek­iti

THE Fed­eral High Court, Ado Ek­iti Di­vi­sion, has ruled that the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) lacks power to in­ves­ti­gate fi­nances of a state as ap­pro­pri­ated by the house of assem­bly with­out a re­port of in­dict­ment from the leg­is­la­ture.

Jus­tice Taiwo Taiwo, in a judg­ment de­liv­ered yes­ter­day, held that only the house of assem­bly and the au­di­tor-gen­eral of a state were legally em­pow­ered to mon­i­tor and in­ves­ti­gate the fi­nances of a state.

In a suit be­tween the at­tor­ney gen­eral of Ek­iti State and EFCC, among17 others, Jus­tice Taiwo ruled that un­der a fed­er­a­tion, the fed­eral govern­ment can­not serve as an over­seer or au­di­tor-gen­eral re­gard­ing the fi­nances of a state.

The state’s at­tor­ney gen­eral filed the suit after the EFCC sent let­ters of in­vi­ta­tion to some govern­ment of­fi­cials and banks seek­ing de­tails of some fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions of the state.

Jus­tice Taiwo said the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions were not en­ti­tled to sub­mit, re­lease or dis­close to any per­son, body or agency, in­clud­ing the EFCC and in­spec­tor gen­eral of po­lice (IG), or any other in­ves­ti­gat­ing body, any doc­u­ment, fi­nan­cial records of the state.

The court held that the anti­graft agency lacked power to take over the over­sight func­tions vested in state assem­bly un­der Sec­tions 128 and 129 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion to ini­ti­ate a probe or crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against a state of­fi­cial.

Ac­cord­ing to the judge, only the state assem­bly is vested with over­sight and in­ves­tiga­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties over state fi­nances, ap­pro­pri­a­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion after re­ceiv­ing a for­mal re­port from the au­di­tor gen­eral or the ac­coun­tant gen­eral as the case may arise. The judge said: “It is unas­sail­able that there is sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. Un­der a fed­eral sys­tem, sec­tion 4, 5 and 6 of the con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers which guar­an­tees in­de­pen­dence and for­bids in­fringe­ment of pow­ers. “The power for con­trol of fund, fi­nan­cial out­flow, ap­pro­pri­a­tion is vested in the house of assem­bly. It is the au­di­tor gen­eral of the state that has the power to con­duct check on all govern­ment cor­po­ra­tions and to sub­mit his re­port to the assem­bly.

“No­body in­clud­ing the court can read other mean­ing into the clear pro­vi­sion of the con­sti­tu­tion.

“The assem­bly has the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on the man­age­ment of funds by the ex­ec­u­tives. They have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure fund man­age­ment, cut wastages and re­ject cor­rup­tion.

“The first de­fen­dant (EFCC) is bound to op­er­ate within the con­sti­tu­tion and can- not op­er­ate like the lord of the manor. Its statu­tory duty is not a li­cence to con­tra­vene the con­sti­tu­tion. “I can’t by any stretch of imag­i­na­tion see how the statu­tory func­tions of the (EFCC) can ex­tend to a state in a fed­er­a­tion un­der any guise to the ex­tent that the eight to 18 de­fen­dants (banks) will be di­rected to sub­mit bank de­tails.

“Yes, the first de­fen­dant can in­ves­ti­gate any per­son or cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion, what it can’t do is to usurp the pow­ers of the assem­bly.

“The Fed­eral Govern­ment can­not im­pose its statu­tory du­ties on a state in fla­grant dis­obe­di­ent of the con­sti­tu­tion. The pros­e­cu­tion should not ride roughshod of the con­sti­tu­tion. It is the duty of judges to en­sure they don’t lis­ten to sen­ti­ment of the pub­lic. I re­solve all is­sues in favour of the plain­tiff. I grant all re­liefs sought by the plain­tiff in view of the fact they are live is­sues, “he said.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Vitech Train­ers, Lekan Okedeji (left); Di­rec­tor of Ac­counts, Lagos State Min­istry of Es­tab­lish­ments Train­ing and Pen­sions, Deji Koko; Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, Omotilewa Ibirogba and Di­rec­tor of Train­ing, Of­fice of Es­tab­lish­ments and Train­ing, Ay­o­deji Aruna at a fo­rum on cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing a cus­tomer-centric cul­ture in pub­lic ser­vice de­liv­ery sys­tem in Lagos…yes­ter­day

PHOTO: AY­O­DELE ADENIRAN

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