A High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has slammed a N600 million fines against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as damages for investigating the state’s accounts, and subsequently declaring two officials of the state government wanted. EFCC had last month declared Federick Abere and Lekia Biokpo, officials of the state government wanted over an alleged criminal conspiracy, money laundering, misappropriation of public funds and abuse of office to the tune of N117 billion.
But, Justice George Omereji of the Rivers State High Court in a fundamental human rights matter brought by the Accountant General of the state, Frederick Abere, and a retired Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local government Affairs, Lekia Bukpo, declared that the EFCC had no right to investigate the state government’s account or its officials.
He noted that the EFCC should first vacate the subsisting order made by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court before taking any action on accounts of the state government. He said that the EFCC had failed to appeal the judgments against it but resorted to self-help by inviting the officials, declaring that the court was embarrassed by the actions of the anti-graft agency.However, in his judgement, Justice Omereji ordered that N300 million each should be paid by EFCC to Federick Abere and Lekia Biokpo, as exemplary damages, saying the Letter of Invitation of EFCC is in disobedience to the court order and malicious.
The Justice added that only Rivers State House of Assembly had the right to investigate the financial activities of the State government. The counsel to the two officials of the state government, Dike Udenna, who spoke with newsmen, said the verdict addresses the actions of federal agencies, which took the judiciary for granted.