The Federal High Court in Gusau, Zamfara State, has declared that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) does not possess the jurisdiction to summon current and former officials of the Zamfara State Government to account for the utilization of state funds.
The court affirmed that the responsibility to audit the public accounts of Zamfara State lies solely with the Auditor General of the state and not the EFCC or any other entity.
Justice Aminu Bappa Aliyu delivered this verdict, Wednesday, May 31, 2023 while presiding over a lawsuit filed by the Zamfara State Government and the Attorney General of Zamfara State against the EFCC and the Attorney of the Federation.
The court further invalidated the EFCC’s letter of invitation, dated September 28, 2021, and subsequent communications with past and present officials of the Zamfara State Government, stating that such actions exceeded the EFCC’s powers and were devoid of any legal effect.
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These rulings were issued following extensive arguments presented by Abdulfathu Shehu, counsel for the Plaintiffs, and the Defendants’ counsels, Adebisi Adeniyi and P. A. Attah, in the Writ of Summons suit filed on November 16, 2021, and identified as FHC/GS/CS/30/2021.
After thoroughly examining the submissions made by all parties involved, Justice Aliyu granted all of the Plaintiffs’ prayers, emphasizing that only the Zamfara State House of Assembly and the Auditor General possess the constitutional authority to seek explanations from public officials regarding the utilization of state funds, not the EFCC or the Attorney General of the Federation.
Furthermore, the Zamfara State Government petitioned the court to prohibit the EFCC from summoning, arresting, or detaining any government officials in relation to the appropriation of public funds in the state, as such actions would contravene the powers of the anti-graft body.
The presiding judge granted this request, stating, “A declaration is made that, based on the provisions of Section 120, 121, 122. 123, 124, 128, and 129 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, the EFCC does not have the authority to summon current and former officials of the Plaintiff (Zamfara State Government) via letters, telephone calls, or any other means of communication to account for the utilization of security votes, estacodes, and traveling allowances, as the constitutional authority to investigate and exercise control over such funds resides with the Auditor General and the Zamfara State House of Assembly.
“Furthermore, a declaration is made that, upon a careful and accurate interpretation of the provisions of Section 125 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, the responsibility to receive financial statements and annual accounts of Zamfara State from the Accountant General of Zamfara State is exclusively vested in the Auditor General for Zamfara State.
“A declaration is made that, based on a careful and accurate interpretation of the provisions of Section 125 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, the power to audit the public accounts of Zamfara State is solely vested in the Auditor General of Zamfara State.”