Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
The Ekiti State Government on Monday in Abuja described the arrest of two of its commissioners by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as unconstitutional.
The Commissioner for Finance, Toyin Ojo, and the Accountant General of the state, Yemisi Owolabi, were picked by the EFCC for allegedly misapplying the state’s resources.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, the Attorney General of the state, Mr. Kolapo Kolade, described the action of the EFCC as unconstitutional and a display of what he called executive lawlessness.
He said a subsisting court order was issued in 2016 by a Federal High Court in a suit FHC/AD/CS/32/2016 in which the EFCC was a defendant.
The order, according to him, 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 of the court, he added, was duly served on the EFCC on November 7, 2016, adding that the order had yet to be vacated as of the time the officials were arrested by the EFCC.
The commissioner said, “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 till 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.”
He added, “The order of the Federal High court has not been vacated till date. In other words, the issues of the arrest and or detention of the Ekiti State Government officials are subjudice.
“The EFCC is not above the law and the agency is bound to obey lawful orders made by courts as in this case.”
Speaking further on the alleged illegality of the actions of the EFCC, Kolade argued that going by 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 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 any 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 Sections 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 reports an indictment that the EFCC or any investigative agencies can take over.
“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.”