The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a suit filed by the Benue State Government challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate its accounts. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who dismissed the suit for lacking in merit held that the case was built on a misconception that the EFCC lacked the statutory powers to investigate the financial activities of state government.
However, the state government, while faulting the judgment, said it would challenge it at the Court of Appeal. Counsel to the state government, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), who was accompanied by the state Attorney General, Micheal Gusa, confirmed that the state will challenge the judgment at the Court of Appeal.
While urging the EFCC to be neutral and impartial in the discharge its statutory functions, the court noted that the commission has a moral burden by carrying out the investigations into the accounts of Benue State as soon as the state government changed her political affiliation. Justice Dimgba held that “the powers donated to the EFCC under Section 38 of its Act are very broad and not limited to any geographical location. It is so broad that it arises even in the context of management of state finances. “I must make bold to say that the suit rest on a fallacy that EFCC is investigating the Benue State Government.
This misconception collapsed by the provision of Section 38 of the EFCC Act. “Issues are mixed up here and the Court cannot allow itself into the misconception. What is clear to me going by the exhibits attached by the 1st defendant is that petitions were written against some named officials in the administration of the Benue State Government containing allegations of fraud against them.
“Invitation letters were directed to some officials of Benue State Government and another letter requesting the release of some state officials. “None of the officials is a Governor or Deputy Governor who enjoys immunity under section 308 of the 1999 constitution. “The suggestion that EFCC is investigating Benue State Government did not hold water. I am of the view that EFCC acted within its powers under the law when it sent letters of invitation to some officials of the Benue State Government for the purpose of investigation, which is the subject matter before this Court.
“I don’t agree that its action is a usurpation of responsibilities of the State House of Assembly and the Auditor General of the State. “The Audit function of the Auditor General did not foreclose the duties and functions of the EFCC. It is a complementary to the powers of the powers of the State Assembly under Sections 128 and 129 of the 1999 constitution.
“As far as I can see, there is nothing in section 125, 128 and 129 which for closed the investigating powers of the EFCC. The surveillance powers of the Auditor General and House of Assembly is limited. I am of the view that EFCC retained the powers to investigate the finances of the state. It does not do any violence to the Doctrine of federalism and separation of powers.