Court slams N600m penalty on EFCC for disobedience

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have been ordered to pay the sum of N600m ‘exemplary damages’ to two Rivers State Government officials for investigating and declaring them wanted despite court restraint.

This order was given by Justice George Omereji of a High Court in Port Harcourt on Thursday.

The two officials are the State Accountant General, Frederick Dagogo-Abere; and former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Lekia Bukpo. They were among those accused by the anti-graft agency of withdrawing N117bn from state government coffers.

In his ruling, Justice Omereji declared that the anti-graft agency violated the fundamental rights of the officials by investigating the Rivers State Government’s account.

He stated that the action was in disobedience of a subsisting court order restraining the Commission from investigating the state government account.

Justice Omereji said he was embarrassed by the actions of the EFCC, adding that the Commission failed to appeal the judgment against it, but resorted to self-help by inviting the state officials.

He said that the Commission 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.

The judge also described the letter of invitation of the EFCC to the state government officials malicious, maintaining that only the Rivers State House of Assembly has the right to investigate the financial activities of the state government.

The court declared that the sum of N300m each be paid by the EFCC to Federick Abere and Lekia Biokpo as exemplary damages.

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