THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been told that it cannot probe the finances of Ekiti state without the state assembly’s consent.
Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of a Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti on Tuesday made the declaration in a judgement delivered in a suit filed by Ekiti State Government against the EFCC, the Inspector General of Police, the Speaker of the 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 of some financial transactions of the state.
The EFCC also sent letters to the banks seeking financial the books of the state in their custody.
Justice Taiwo 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.
He said the financial institutions are not entitled to submit, 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, etc.
According to him, 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 meaning into the clear provision of the constitution.
“The assembly has the responsibilities on the management of funds by the executives.
“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 its statutory duties on a state in flagrant disobedient 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.”
The Senior Counsel to the state government, Mike Ozekhome, while commenting on the development, said, “The court made it clear today that the EFCC is not an omnibus, rampaging policeman or guardian agent that monitors state finances, receipts, expenditure and use of state finances and that that is the job of the state of assembly.
“The doctrine of separation of power, horizontally and vertically, the principle of division of labour, all those doctrines propounded by great philosophers of yore, particularly as popularised by Baron De’ Montesquieu in 1748, made it clear that the FG cannot railroad itself to begin to examine the functions, the amount received by the state, how it has been used, whether part of the money has been embezzled.
“Section 6 of the EFCC Establishment Act does not cover it.
“It only says it has the powers to investigate financial crimes against persons, an individual, a corporate.
“It didn’t say against the state government and as the judge rightly said, quoting several authorities like the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the Supreme Court of America has made it clear again and again that the Federal Government does not have powers to investigate state finances.”