Nigeria’s top human rights lawyer and lawyer, Femi Falana, on Thursday expressed opposition to the opinion of another SAN, Olisa Agbakoba, by anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and other related offences. they were competent to investigate the account of the state governments.
The Advocate General disclosed this in a piece made available to our correspondent in Abuja.
“My respected colleague and comrade in the human rights community, Olisa Agbakoba SAN, has questioned the legal authority of anti-graft agencies to investigate the finances of state governments. He feels so convinced of his position that he has announced his intention to approach the federal court to secure a permanent injunction barring the EFCC from looking into the accounts of state governments.
“The debate is completely pointless, since the appellate courts have found that anti-graft agencies have the power to arrest, investigate and prosecute public officials and individuals involved in the criminal misappropriation of public funds belonging to state governments. Some of the cases include: Kalu v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2014) 1 NWLR (PT 1389) 479.
“The locus standi of the EFCC to prosecute the appellants was questioned by the appellants who raised several objections to the charges on the ground that the allegedly stolen funds belonged to the Abia State government.
“The appellants said they should not be charged on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Court of Appeal had no problem dismissing the claims. In the main judgment of the Eko JCA Court (as it then stood) he said: “The appellants have erred in my view in arguing that they are offenses against the Abia State Government which allegedly owns the “stolen and laundered” funds in the account of Slok Nigeria Limited.
“This argument is based on another false premise that the funds allegedly stolen and paid into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited were from the Abia State Security Votes, the 2nd respondent, as the Governor of Abia State, and said Security Votes are “unaccountable and irrevocable”.
“The argument does not say, and cannot be extended to say, that because Security Vote funds are ‘unaccountable and irrevocable’ they are pilferable or can be stolen with impunity.”
“Kalu V Federal Republic of Nigeria and Ors  Totally aggrieved with the decision of the NGSC 34 Appellate Tribunal, the appellants approached the Supreme Court. In dismissing the appeal, their Lordships said:
“The argument of the appellant that he had no shares in the alter ego of Slok Ltd and the illegality of withdrawing some large sums of money from the Account of the Abia State Government where he was the Executive Governor from 1999 to 2007; these are all issues for his defense at trial.
“Section 6 and Section 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act gives the EFCC the role and duty to investigate and prosecute persons reasonably suspected of having committed economic and financial crimes. It is a clear interference with the powers vested in the EFCC by law and the constitution to carry out criminal investigations and prosecutions.”
“Dariye v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2015) 10 NWLR (PT.1467) 325.
The appellant challenged the competence of the EFCC to prosecute the case on the grounds that the matter was not the property of the Plateau State Government. Dismissing the objection, the Supreme Court said: “… As rightly pointed out by the learned counsel for the respondent, the offenses are chargeable under the provisions of the Penal Code which is a federal law. It is a Federal prosecution and the Attorney General of the Federation may prosecute him personally or through an agent for the alleged offences. . Who owns the subject matter of the charges is not important. What is material is that a federal law has been violated.”
“God v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2010) 7 NWLR (PT.1093) 344 at 429 .
In rejecting the objection that the prosecutor is not the owner of the stolen money, the Supreme Court said: “It is not a defense known to law that an accused cannot be prosecuted by an authority vested with prosecutorial powers, the prosecutor is not the owner of the stolen things.
“The crime is a crime against the state. The prosecutor does not have to have an interest in the subject matter of the complaint in order to prosecute the accused. It protects the state and its citizens, and every prosecutor or authority or agency with powers to prosecute should be encouraged to perform their duties, as long as due process is maintained and followed.
“Ondo State Attorney General v. Attorney General of the Federation (2002) 27 WRN 1 at 186:
“The plaintiff challenged the constitutional validity of the ICPC Act, 2000 and contended that it was not applicable to Ondo State. In upholding the validity of the Ac, the High Court said, inter alia:
“It has been noted that the provisions of the Act imply the cardinal principle of federalism, namely, the requirement of equality and autonomy of the State Government and non-interference with the functions of the State Government.
“This is true, but as seen above, both the Federal and State Governments share the power to legislate to eliminate corruption and abuse of office. If this is a violation of the principle of Federalism, then, I am afraid, it is the Constitution that makes provisions that have made it easier to violate the principle.
“In so far as the aberration is allowed by the provisions of the Constitution, I think it cannot be rightly argued that an illegality has occurred because the Constitution has no adherence to the cardinal principles which are ideals to follow or to follow ideals at best. ideal state.
“Shema & 3 Ors v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2018) 1 SC (PT 1) 1.
The issue at issue was the power of the EFCC to prosecute a former governor and other officials of a state without the authority of the state Attorney General. The view of the Supreme Court was: “The law shows a clear intention that, with or without the express delegation of the Attorney General of Katsina State, the EFCC can validly prefer the present charges and prosecute the appellants on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a joint Agency of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Attorney General of Katsina State.
“We agree with the response that the community reading of the provisions of Sections 15 (5) and 211 (1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); m), 7 f), 13 (2) a) and d) and the EFCC of 2004 Section 46 of the (Enforcement) Act and Section 185(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CPC), Cap 37, Laws of Katsina State, 1991 empower the EFCC to do what it wanted to do in trying to prosecute the appellant.
“Given the current state of the law, it is undoubtedly clear that the EFCC and ICPC are empowered to look into the accounts of state governments and prosecute former state government officials or officials involved in corrupt practices, money laundering or criminal misappropriation of public funds.
“Although state governors cannot be arrested and prosecuted since Article 305 of the Constitution has granted them immunity during their term of office, anti-graft agencies have not been prevented from investigating the economic and financial crimes commission’s allegations, including corruption against them.”