Akwa Ibom State Government has filed N50 billion lawsuit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State over the freezing of its account recently. In the Writ of Summons marked FHC/07/CS/13/18, other defendants alongside EFCC are: Attorney General of the Federation, Zenith Bank Plc., Skye Bank Plc. and the United Bank for Africa Plc.
The court is asked to determine whether the accounts of Akwa Ibom State government held with banks or financial institutions fall within the financial crimes enforcement purview of Section 34 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
The state also wants the court to determine whether the account of Akwa Ibom State government with a bank or financial institution can be subjected to freezing order pursuant to section 34 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.
The claimant, however, prayed for a declaration that provisions section 34 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 are not applicable to accounts held by the government of Akwa Ibom State with banks and financial institutions. The state also wants the court to declare that the accounts of Akwa Ibom State government held with banks are not subject to the provision relating to freezing orders under section 34 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004. It further prays the court to declare that the EFCC has no power under section 34 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 to investigate the accounts, books or documents relating to the accounts of the government of Akwa Ibom State with banks or financial institutions, or to otherwise require to supply any other information in the nature thereof.
The state is, therefore, praying the court for an order of injunction restraining the EFCC from issuing or purporting to issue any freezing order, or any other process in the nature thereof, against the government of Akwa Ibom State in respect of any account it holds with any bank or other financial institutions. In addition, the state is praying for an order of injunction restraining the banks from freezing the operation of any of its accounts held in their respective banks, purporting to do so on the order or criminal investigation mandate of the EFCC without the order of the court.
The state, however, prayed for the sum of N50 billion as general damages for its injurious reputation and denied access to the operation of its accounts. Speaking with newsmen over the weekend, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, noted that the anti-graft agency had no constitutional powers to freeze the state government’s accounts. According to him, “There is no basis even in the constitution of Nigeria or any other enabling law made by anybody whether the National Assembly or the state Assembly or any other convention that authorizes any federal agency or any agency to shut down the account of a state government as done by the EFCC.
“I want to state clearly that even if there were to be an investigation that the EFCC was carrying out about whether there was any fraud committed against Akwa Ibom State in that circumstance, it should be the government of Akwa Ibom that should be the victim.
So, there was no basis for freezing the account on the premise that they were investigating a fraud against the state government.” The Attorney General regretted that the state account that was shut down stalled the economic.
“The singular attempt of freezing the account of the state government was shutting down the state. Akwa Ibom State was brought down on its knees; it was an attempt to paralyze and completely demobilize the activity of the state. “We could not respond to economic, security and business exigencies,” the commissioner said. On the report of tracing about N1 billion to accounts owned by top lawyers in the country, the Attorney General said the state government had lawyers under its employment and it owed them obligation to pay them their fees, arguing whether it was unlawful for lawyers who work for a state government to receive their legitimate earnings.