From Jimoh Joseph, Ado Ekiti
A Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti, on Tuesday declared that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) cannot probe finances of States without receiving a report of indictment from State legislature.
The court made the declaration in a judgement it delivered in a suit filed by Ekiti State Government against the EFCC, the Inspector General of Police, the Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, the Clerk and 13 others.
The state’s Attorney General filed the suit after the commission sent letters of invitation to some government officials seeking details over some financial transactions of the state. EFCC also sent letters to the banks seeking financial books of the state in their custody.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo held that the financial institutions are not entitled to submit or to release to or any manner whatsoever to disclose to any person, body or agency, including the EFCC and IG, or any other investigating body, any document, financial records.
The court held that the anti- graft agency cannot usurp the oversight functions vested in state assembly under Sections 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution to initiate a probe or criminal proceedings against a state official.
The Judge held that only the state legislature is vested with oversight and investigation role over state finances, appropriation and implementation after receiving a formal report from the Auditor General or the Accountant General as the case may arise.
Referring to Section 125 (c) of the constitution, Justice Taiwo said, “It is unassailable that there is separation of powers.
Under a federal system, Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution provides separation of powers which guarantees independence and disallow encroachment of powers.
“The power for control of fund, financial outflow, appropriation are vested in the House of Assembly.
“It is the Auditor General of the state that has the power to conduct check on all government corporations and to submit his report to the Assembly.
“Nobody including the court can read other meanings into the clear provision of the constitution.
“The Assembly has the responsibilities on the management of funds by the Executive. They have the responsibility to ensure fund management, cut wastages, reject corruption.
“The first defendant (EFCC) is bound to operate within the constitution and cannot operate like the lord of the manor. It is statutory duty is not a licence to contravene the Constitution.
“I can’t by any stretch of imagination see how the statutory functions of the (EFCC) can extend to a state in a federation under any guise to the extent that the eight to 18 defendants (banks) will be directed to submit bank details.
“Yes, the first defendant can investigate any person or corporate organisation, what it can’t do is to usurp the powers of the assembly.
“The Federal Government cannot impose it’s statutory duties on a state in flagrant disobedience of the constitution. The prosecution should not ride roughshod of the constitution.
“It is the duty of judges to ensure they don’t listen to sentiment of the public. I resolve all issues in favour of the plaintiff. I grant all reliefs sought by the plaintiff in view of the fact they are live issues.”