The Oyo State House of Assembly, its Speaker and two other principal officers have sued the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over its investigation of the accounts and financial activities of the third arm of government in the State.
The plaintiffs are contending among others, that no provision of the Constitution empowers the EFCC to probe the Oyo State Assembly and its principal officers without a formal compliant from the state’s Auditor-General.
They added that the EFCC, being an agency of the Federal Government, “cannot look into and/or cause to investigate the accounts of any authority such as the 1st plaintiff (Oyo Assembly) and/agency in Oyo State,” in view of the specific provisions in sections 120,121, 125, 126 and127 of the Constitution.
Listed with the House of Assembly as the plaintiffs in the suit are Adebo Edward Ogundoyin (the Speaker); Sanjo Adedoyin Onaolapo (Majority Leader) and Asimiyu Niran Alarape (Minority Leader).
The EFCC is the sole defendant.
The pendency of the suit, filed on May 5 this year at the Federal High Court, Ibadan has been communicated to the Chairman, EFCC Abdulrasheed Bawa and the Director, Legal Department via letters written by lawyer to the plaintiffs, Musibau Adetunbi (SAN).
The letters, with the court processes attached, were sighted by The Nation in Abuja on Sunday. They are dated May 5, but received at the Abuja headquarters of the EFCC on May 6, 2022.
The letters are titled: “Notification of the pendency of suit No: FHC/IB/CS/71/2022 between Oyo State House of Assembly & 3 others v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”
The plaintiffs are praying the court to among others, declare that under the Constitution, particularly Section 125, the state’s Auditor-General possesses the exclusive duty to investigate the accounts and finances of the House of Assembly and its officers.
They want the court to declare that the EFCC’s act of requesting for the 1st plaintiff’s account books and information about its financial activities, without any complaint from the state’s Auditor-General is a violation of Section 125 of the Constitution and a clear usurpation of the Auditor-General’s duty under Section 125(4) of the Constitution.
The plaintiffs equally want the court restrain the EFCC from further interfering in the activities of the plaintiffs and their staff, and to order it (the EFCC) to return the account books and other documents “forcefully obtained from the 1st plaintiff.”
In her witness statement, filed with the writ of summons, the Clerk of the Oyo House of Assembly, Mrs. Yetunde Oludara Awe stated that the activities of operatives of the EFCC were gradually grounding the operations of the third arm of government in Oyo State.
Mrs. Awe stated that armed EFCC operatives first stormed the Assembly in July 2021, arrested some officials and compelled them to make statements and submit documents concerning the financial transactions of the plaintiffs.
She added that while the EFCC operatives have made it a habit to constantly invite and harass officials of the House of Assembly, they are allegedly planning to invite all the 32 members of Assembly “with the intention of incapacitating the effective running of the 1st plaintiff.
“By virtue of the Constitution, section 125(2), (4), and (6) in particular, the defendant cannot look into the financial activities of the 1st plaintiff and the financial transactions of the 1st to 4th plaintiffs,” the Clerk said.
She added that it was obvious from the various letters written by the defendant to the House of Assembly that the purported investigation by the EFC is “a usurpation of the power of the Auditor-General of Oyo State as stipulated by Section 125(4) of the Constitution.