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9 Aug 2018

COURT SUMMONS EFCC OVER BENUE ACCOUNTS

By Godwin Tsa, Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja has summoned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to appear before it over the frozen of the Benue State Government account.
Justice Babatunde Quadri issued the order today after listening to the submissions by counsel to Benue State government, Emeka Etiaba (SAN).
The court however directed the state government to serve all the processes involved in the suit on the anti- graft agency and other respondents before the next hearing date fixed for August 14, 2018.
Others 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.
Before hearing the exparte motion filed by counsel to Benue State, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) and Emeka Okpoko (SAN), the granted leave to the plaintiff to hear the matter as a vacation court.
Etiaba had prayed the court to issue a preservative order restraining the 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.
Specifically, in the originating summons marked FHC/MKD/CS/42/18 filed by the Attorney General of Benue State, the court is urged 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 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.
"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.
"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 also wants 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 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.
Some of the officers invited for interrogation by the EFCC, according to the affidavit are 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 depondent ‎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.
Some of the documents forwarded to the EFCC for investigation are certified true copies of the approved budget for the Bureau for Local government and Chietaincy Affairs and those of all the 23 local government council from 2015 to date; approved budget of the state and the Local government council from January 2015 to date; details of statutory allocations released to the state and Local government councils from January 2015 to date; details of excess crude Oil allocations released to the state and Local government from January 2015 to date and details of Value Added Tax (VAT) allocations released to the state and Local government councils from January 2015 to date.
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