A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit filed by Benue State Government challenging the power of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the state government’s finances.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said yesterday that the EFCC has the statutory powers to investigate all economic and financial crimes in all strata of Nigeria’s public life. He, therefore, dismissed the suit for being a fallacy and lacking in merit.
“None of the officials is a Governor or Deputy Governor, who enjoys immunity under Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution,” he said.
The judge ruled that the timing of the investigation, which followed the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom, may affect public confidence in the EFCC. He added however that it is a moral rather than a legal point.
“Given, therefore, the sensitivity of its role and the First defendant now occupies in the imposed task of redeeming this nation, to earn public confidence, as a matter of life and death, the First defendant must not only be impartial and politically neutral, it must also be seen, and very transparently, to be such,” he said.
The Attorney General of Benue State had sued the EFCC on the grounds that by the provisions of Sections 6, 7 and 38(1) of the EFCC Act and the provisions of Sections 1 (1) and (3), 125(2), (4) and (6), 128 and 129 of the Constitution, the anti-graft body 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.
But EFCC counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, asked the court to discountenance the suit, arguing that the action of the EFCC is not a usurpation of the powers of the Benue State House of Assembly.
Benue State has vowed to appeal the judgment.