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Promoting Good Governance.

EFCC to pay N600m damages for investigating Rivers State officials

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been ordered to pay the sum of N300 million in damages to each of the two officials of the Rivers State Government, for declaring them wanted in contravention of a subsisting court judgement.

Justice George Omereji of the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt gave the ruling on  Thursday, insisting that the EFCC violated the fundamental human rights of the affected persons.

Frederick Dagogo-Abere, the Rivers State Accountant General, and Lekia Bukpo, a former Permanent Secretary in the State’s Ministry of Local Government, were declared wanted by the EFCC following allegations that they withdrew the sum of N117 billion from the state’s treasury.

But in his ruling on Thursday, Justice Omereji expressed his dissatisfaction with the EFCC for going against a subsisting court order restraining it from investigating the state government’s account.

He noted that the Commission could have appealed the judgment if it was not satisfied with it, rather than resorting to self-help and going ahead to invite the officials. Omereji insists that the EFCC should first obtain a valid court order setting aside the ruling by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, before taking further action on the Rivers State accounts.

According to the judgement which was handed down in March 2007, only the State House of Assembly has the right to investigate the financial activities of the state government. Justice Buba also granted “a perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC from arresting, detaining and arraigning Odili on the basis of his tenure as governor based on the purported investigation.”

Though the EFCC, then led by Nuhu Ribadu, took the matter to the court of Appeal in 2007, the case remains pending almost 11 years after. Another Appeal filed by the EFCC in 2008, also remains pending.

Peter Odili’s wife, Mary, is currently a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

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