EFCC has powers to investigate Benue State accounts, court rules
THE Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to move on with investigating Benue State government’s accounts.
The anti-graft agency, EFCC, had earlier in August froze three bank accounts of the state for investigation, alleging the government, under the governorship of Samuel Ortom, of misappropriation of its funds.
The Benue sued the commission, claiming that EFCC had no power to either freeze the state’s bank account or investigate it.
The court dismissed the suit at the hearing on Monday, according to News Agency of Nigeria.
The judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, in his judgment said that the suit was lacking in merit.
The judge noted that the case was built on a misconception that the EFCC lacked statutory powers to investigate the financial activities of a state government.
“I must make clear from the very beginning that it appears to me that this suit rests on a very serious factual fallacy and misconception.
“This misconception partly arises from the collapse of Sections 6 and 7 and 38 of the EFCC Act by the plaintiff, and on that basis, submitting that a state government does not fall within the definition of any of the subjects that can be open to the investigative measures under sections 7 and 38 of the Act.
“As stated, it seems issues are being mixed up here and the court must be careful not to allow itself to be pulled into this deep gully of misconception,” Dimgba said.
He added that the definition of economic and financial crimes under Section 46 of the Act is “so broad” that it could address the management of the financial resources of a state.
“I am, therefore, in total disagreement with the proposition that the EFCC is foreclosed from investigating an allegation of corruption when it has to do with the finances of a state government.”
However, the court cautioned the commission to carry out its statutory functions with impartiality and neutrality, thereby earning public confidence.
Emeka Etiaba (SAN), Counsel to the Benue State government, who was accompanied by the state’s attorney general stated that the state would challenge the judgment at the Court of Appeal.
The suit filed through the office of the state Attorney-General and commissioner for justice, Michael Gusa, sought the verdict of the court to the effect that a state government’s account maintained with any bank or financial institution in Nigeria does not fall within the class of bank accounts liable to be frozen by EFCC.
The state argued that the house of assembly must first make its resolution before the commission could investigate its accounts, adding that EFCC was not empowered by law to inquire into investigating the financial affairs of Benue State.