By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, fixed February 18, 2013, to deliver judgement on a suit asking it to declare the huge amount of monies usually deducted from statutory allocation by governors of the 36 states of the federation under the guise of ‘Security Votes’, as illegal, fraudulent and unconstitutional.
Justice Adamu Bello adjourned for judgement after he listened to preliminary objections entered against the suit by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, as well as objections from governors of the 36 states.
The plaintiff, Chief Nkereuwem Dofia Akpan, who is a constitutional lawyer, had in the suit he filed since 2010, prayed the court to, among other things, determine whether by virtue of the extant, sacrosanct and combined provisions of section 16(2) and section 120 of the 1999 constitution Cap C 23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, any of the defendants has the power, without lawful authority, to deduct monies from the statutory allocation made from the Federation Account to each or any of the states of the federation or the Federal Capital Territory under the guise of “Security Vote.”
Besides, he urged the court to determine whether the policy of security vote is recognized either by the 1999 constitution or any other law for the time being in force in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Whether by section 205(d) of the 1999 constitution, the criminal deductions so made by the defendants is not fraudulent, illegal, void and unconstitutional and whether the 1st to 37th defendants are not to that extent in breach of their oath of office for bare violation of the constitution.”
As well as, “whether by the effects of section 39 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, the ICPC Act 2003 and the EFCC Act 2004, the 38th and 39th defendants cannot be compelled to commence the investigation of these illegal, fraudulent and unconstitutional deductions with a view to recovering such misappropriated monies to the Federation Account or such other accounts as the National Assembly may by simple resolution direct.”
EFCC, govs oppose suit
Meanwhile, though the Governors of all the 36 states earlier challenged the competence of the suit, the EFCC and ICPC, yesterday, took turns to adduce reasons why the suit should be dismissed in its entirety.
In a counter affidavit deposed to by one of its lawyers, James Neville Onu, EFCC branded the suit as “frivolous, unmeritorious and worthless.”
While urging the court to dismiss the action “inlimine”, EFCC, maintained that the plaintiff lacks the requisite locus standi to institute the action.
Likewise, in its counter affidavit, the ICPC, through one of its lawyers, Ezeana Ijezie, maintained that the plaintiff failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action against the 36 states governors, insisting that it has no power to investigate how the defendants utilise the security votes they deduct from their state allocations.
It was the contention of the plaintiff that “the illegal ways and manners these monies are deducted and misappropriated by the Governors, including the Minister of FCT, amount to gross abuse of office.
“I verily believe that the 38th and 39th defendants (EFCC and ICPC) are statutorily enamoured with powers to investigate the 1st to 37th defendants for these sordid and fraudulent acts.
I verily believe that this court can compel the 38th and 39th defendants to prosecute the 1st to 37th defendants once their immunities expire upon leaving office at the end of their term or removal from office whichever comes earlier” he stated.