THE Ekiti State Government on Monday described the arrest and the continued detention of its Commissioner for Finance, Chief Toyin Ojo and the State Accountant General, Mrs Yemisi Ojo by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EfCC, over the alleged misappropriation of the bailout funds from the Federal Government as “unconstitutional and act of executive recklessness.”
The duo was picked up by the Operatives of the Commission last Thursday over allegations bothering on a misapplication of certain resources that accrued to the State Government from the bailout funds of the Federal Government.
Speaking with Newsmen in Abuja yesterday, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner For Justice, Barrister Kolapo Olugbenga Kolade, berated the action of the EFCC, saying it. Was unconstitutional and a display of Executive lawlessness.”
According to him,”a valid subsisting Order was issued on 2016 by a Federal High Court in a suit FHC/AD/CS/32/2016 in which the EFCC was a defendant, as the Court barred the EFCC from “arresting, detaining or investigating any person or persons whether past or present officials in the Ekiti State Government without any report of indictment by the Ekiti State House of Assembly.”
The order, he noted, was sought due to the serial arrest and embarrassment of the state officials by the EFCC over issues that do not fall within the purview of the anti-graft agency.
The Order of the Court, he said, was duly served on the EFCC on 7th November 2016, a pronouncement he said, has not been vacated either by the court that issued it or a court of higher jurisdiction.
According to him. “Following the Interim Order, the EFCC wrote a petition to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for the transfer of the case to another Federal High Court Judge and the case was subsequently transferred to the Akure Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
“The Akure Judicial Division of the Federal High Court sat over the case on the 24th day of January 2017 and re-emphasized the order made earlier by the Ado Ekiti Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
“The case was adjourned to 15/02/2017 for hearing. However, the Judge referred the case back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to have a second look at the issue of transferring the case to the Akure Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
“The Order of the Federal High court has not been vacated till date. In Order words, the issue of the arrest and or detention of the Ekiti State Government Officials is subjudice.
“The EFCC is not above the law and the Agency is bound to obey Lawful Orders made by Courts as in this case
“The Actions of the EFCC are to say, the least lawful and a raw show of executive lawlessness.”
While accusing the Commission of acting outside its constitutional mandate by attempting to look into the account books of the state, the Commissioner said such violates Section 125(5) (6) and 128 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which gives such power to the State House of Assembly only and can also raise alarm on any act of fraud detected (if any).
According to him, “Section 125 (5) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) reads : “The Auditor-General for a State shall within Ninety days of receipt of the Accountant General Financial Statement and Annual Accounts of the State, submit its report to the House of Assembly of the State and the House shall cause the Report to be considered by the House responsible for the public account.
“125 (6) reads “In the exercise of its functions under this constitution, the Auditor-General for a State shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or persons.”
Speaking further on the alleged illegality of the actions of the EFCC, Barrister Kolade said “more importantly, Section 128(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is the Ekiti State House of Assembly that has the responsibility among others to complain about any financial irregularity against the Ekiti State Government.
“It is only when there is any complaint by the Ekiti State House of Assembly to the EFCC and, or any other investigative Agency that such Agency can arrest or investigate and financial impropriety. Any provision of the EFCC Act that is inconsistent with the above-cited provisions of the Constitution shall be void to the extent of its inconsistency.
“By the combined effect of the provisions of section 125 and 128 of the 1999 constitution, it is the House of Assembly of Ekiti State that has oversight functions of the finances of the State and it is only when the House of Assembly complains or report an indictment that the EFCC or any investigative agencies can take over. More so that the Order of the Federal High court is still subsisting.
“The EFCC has all opportunities of challenging or vacating the Order which it has failed to do.
“It is crystal clear from the above that the EFCC, without any complaint from the House of Assembly of Ekiti State reporting an indictment, cannot investigate any financial impropriety against the Ekiti State Government or any of its Officials.
“The actions of the EFCC in arresting and detaining the officials of Ekiti State Government portends great danger for our democracy as the EFCC is acting a script and giving an impression that it is an extension of All Progressives Congress. Equally, because the arrest and detention came on a day when the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Peter Ayodele Fayose declared his intention to run against the APC led Federal Government in the forthcoming elections in 2019.”