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Published On: Tue, Aug 21st, 2018

Court halts EFCC from probing Benue accounts

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By Vivian Okejeme Abuja

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, has issued a preservative order to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to stop further investigations into the finances of Benue State Government, pending the determination of the suit filed by the state.
The judge warned that parties should not take further steps that would destroy the subject matter of the court.
In an originating summons marked FHC/MKD/CS/42/18 filed by the Attorney General of Benue State, the state challenging the powers of the EFCC 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.
When the matter came up yesterday, the vacation Judge, Justice Dimgba, expressed the need to study the case file, as it was coming to him for the first time.
Consequently, he ordered parties “Not to take any further steps pending the determination of the originating summons.
He therefore, adjourned to August 29, 2018, for continuation.
It will be recalled that the EFCC, had earlier this month frozen the bank account of Benue State Government claiming it was investigating alleged fraud.
Another Judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri had earlier summoned the anti-graft agency to come to court and explain its action, however, the commission promptly unfroze the state account same day the order was made.
According to the suit, EFCC, had in the course of its investigation, interrogated some high ranking government officials of the state, including 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.
Besides government officials, the despondent further averred that the EFCC also invited and interrogated members of the State House of Assembly including Hon. Avine Agbum; Dominic Ucha; Ngohemba Agaigbe; Ngunan Adingi among others.
In the suit, the has further urged the court to determine whether by virtue of sections 6, 7 and 38(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act 2004, or any other law, the EFCC or any other body, authority or person beyond the Benue State House of Assembly and the Auditor- General, Benue State (4th and 5th respondents), 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.
The State asked the court to determine “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 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.
“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 investigate 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 accounts, 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.
The suit is supported by a 35 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Samuel Orchir, who averred that the business of governance has suffered tremendously by the intermittent interferences and demands by the EFCC, on the 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.
That some officials of the state were invited and detained by the EFCC and thereby denying the state of their services.
Other respondents in the suit are the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly; the Clerk, Benue State House of Assembly; Benue State House of Assembly and the Auditor-General, Benue State.

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