April 20, 2010

Bayelsa drags EFCC to court

By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—Bayelsa State government has instituted legal action against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before a Federal High Court in Yenagoa to restrain the anti-graft agency from investigating allegations of massive fraud and looting of public funds.

Joined in the suit as defendants are the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, the State House of Assembly and Clerk to the Assembly.

In suit number FHC/YNG/CS/19/2010 brought before the Federal High Court, the state Attorney General, wants the court to determine whether the EFCC has the power to look into the financial dealings of the state government.

The Attorney General also wants the court to determine whether, under the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the EFCC is entitled to share with the Bayelsa State House of Assembly in its power of control of funds of the state, including the power to inquire into or investigate the disbursing, administering or management of the state funds.

Also, the state government wants the court to determine whether the anti-graft agency has the power to instigate, coerce or induce the speaker and  House of Assembly to investigate the finances of the state.

In his address in support of the originating summons, the Attorney General also wanted the court to proclaim whether the anti-graft agency was invested with any power to investigate the management of the funds or the financial affairs of the state government.

“The EFCC, as an agency of the Federal Government, does not have the authority to investigate how a state government runs its finances. To do so will amount to interference in the autonomy of the state,” the Attorney General argued in his submissions before the court.

“Only the Speaker and the House of Assembly could probe the financial activities of the Bayelsa State government.

“There is no doubt that the EFCC Act is a revolutionary legislation in the history of this country. However, it is the humble submission of the plaintiff that its operations must be in conformity with the provisions of the 1999 constitution,” he stated.

Meanwhile, a pressure group in the state, the Bayelsa Transparency and Transformation Vanguard, has applied to be joined in the suit.

In a motion on notice instituted at the Federal High Court in Yenagoa, Mr. Victor Akenge, Chief Innocent Kaku, Mr. Daniel Igrubia, Chief Monday Timiebi, Mr. Ebi-Timpre Titus and Mr. Johnson Boloebi-Owei, prayed the court to be joined in the suit as interested parties since it had to do with the handling of the state funds.

The group told the court that the House of Assembly never used its powers of investigation under Section 128 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the incumbent administration in the state.

According to the group, the state Attorney General suit is to prevent the EFCC from investigating the management and disbursement of funds of Bayelsa State on the grounds that the investigation of the way public funds of Bayelsa State is managed is the exclusive constitutional business of the House of Assembly and that only the House had the constitutional right to make inquiries into the disbursement of funds of the state.

Hearing has been fixed for 26 April.