A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Benue State government to maintain the status quo on the finances of the state pending the determination of the substantive suit filed by the state government.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who issued the preservative order on Monday, directed that parties should not take further steps that would destroy the subject matter of the suit before the court.
In an originating summons filed by the Benue State Attorney- General , the state is challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate or inquire into the accounts and /or appropriations, disbursements and administration of the funds of the state government having regard to the provisions of Sections 1(1) and (3), 125 (2),(4) and (6), 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution.
Although, all the parties were on Monday represented in court by their lawyers, the vacation judge, Justice Dimgba, expressed the need for him to study the case file, as it was coming to him for the first time.
Accordingly, he ordered parties “not to take any further steps so as not to destroy the res, which is the subject matter before the court, pending the determination of the originating summons.
The judge later adjourned the matter till August 29. While the Benue state government was represented by its lawyer, Mr Emeka
Etiaba (SAN), Slyvanus Tahir appeared for the EFCC.
The EFCC had earlier this month, placed No Debit Note (NDN) on certain accounts of Benue State government on the grounds that it was investigating alleged fraud.
Meanwhile, before Monday’s proceedings, Justice Babatunde Quadri had earlier summoned the EFCC to appear before him to explain its
But Benue State later claimed that the commission had defreeze the accounts the same day the order was made.
In the course of its investigations, the commission had interrogated some high ranking government officials, including the permanent secretary, Government House; permanent secretary, Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services, Mr. Kato Ijir; Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Agbo Omada ; Terwase Orbunde, chief of staff to the governor; Dr. Dura Magdalene, special assistant and adviser on SDG’s to the governor and Mr. Stephen Amase.
Besides, the government officials, the deponent further averred that the EFCC also invited and interrogated members of the state House of Assembly, including Avine Agbum, Dominic Ucha, Ngohemba Agaigbe and Ngunan Adingi among others.
In the suit, the state further urged the court 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 the state government.
Other respondents in the suit are the speaker of the Benue state House of Assembly, clerk of the state assembly, Benue the state House of Assembly and the auditor-general of the state.
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 or 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”.