The Akwa Ibom State Government through the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko, Esq., filed an ex-parte motion (application) at the High Court of Akwa Ibom State, Ikot Ekpene Judicial Division, presided over by Hon.
Justice NFN Ntong, sought and obtained inter alia, an order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government or any of its agencies, including:
1. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC);
2. Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and,
3. Inspector General of Police
… from arresting, detaining or investigating any official of the state government, past or present, without any report of indictment by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
Also, the Judge granted an order of interim injunction restraining:
i. The Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly;
ii. The House of Assembly for Akwa Ibom State;
iii. The Clerk of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly;
iv. The Auditor General for Akwa Ibom State and,
v. The Accountant General for Akwa Ibom State
… from surrendering themselves or any document or financial records to the EFCC, ICPC or any other person, authority or body.
Furthermore, the court restrained ALL commercial banks in Nigeria, including: Zenith Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Plc (formerly Bank PHB); Skye Bank Plc; First City Monument Bank Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc from submitting any document, Financial Statement/Record, Statement of Account, Cheque or Voucher related to any account of the Akwa Ibom State Government to any Agency of the Federal Government, including the EFCC, ICPC or the Inspector General of Police.
The enrolled order which I have in my possession and have dispassionately perused was issued by Justice Ntong on July 13, 2016.
Defending the injunction, the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Nwoko, in an interview on Friday July 22, 2016 with Premium Times, stated that the State Government went to court because EFCC wrote letters to banks requesting documents on state government transactions.
Mr. Nwoko said Akwa Ibom is a federating unit in the Nigerian federation, and that EFCC being an agency of the federal government isn’t empowered by the Nigerian Constitution to investigate the finances of the state.
“It’s not about whether there’s anything wrong with the accounts of the Akwa Ibom state government! Why should the EFCC look into it? Is the state looking into the federal government account?”
Mr. Nwoko said other state governments that allowed EFCC and other federal agencies to investigate them may not have had the wisdom and courage to challenge the federal government.
“As the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom state, I am setting a precedent,” he said.
Contrary to the submissions of Mr Nwoko, the orders granted by Justice Ntong are not only incurably bad and illegal but constitutes a gross abuse of judicial process and powers in the light of litany of judicial decisions, including those of the highest court of the land (the Supreme Court) on the matter.
There is neither wisdom nor courage in Mr Nwoko’s action.
There are at least five (5) settled principles of law that have been violated by the grant of the interim injunction which deserves elucidation.
First, the High Court of Akwa Ibom State lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain any subject matter or question relating to:
(a) The administration, management or control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies, including the EFCC and ICPC;
(b) The operation and interpretation of the Constitution in so far as it affects the Federal Government or any of its agencies and
(c) Any action or proceeding for a declaration, order or injunction affecting the validity of any executive or administrative action or decision by the Federal Government or any of its agencies.
By virtue of Section 251 (1) (p), (q) and (r) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the jurisdiction over the subject matter listed in the preceding paragraph is conferred EXCLUSIVELY on the Federal High Court.
This is a trite law that every serious student of the Nigerian Law School is familiar with. No lawyer worth his salt will contest it.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly and emphatically restated this position in a plethora of cases.
For ease of reference, the following cases are apt: NEPA v. Edegbero (2002) 18 NWLR (Pt. 798) 69; Benson Agbule v. Warri Refinery & Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (2013) 6 NWLR (Pt. 798) 78; Olutola v. University of Ilorin (2005) 3 MJSC 151 at Pp. 173-174; Inegbedion v. Selo-Ojemen & Anor (2013) All FWLR (Pt. 688) 907 at Pp. 922-923 and very recently, John Shoy International Limited v. Federal Housing Authority (Unreported Appeal No. SC. 98/2005) delivered July 2016 by the Supreme Court.
It is beyond argument that the suit instituted by the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State and the orders made by Justice Ntong clearly offends the provisions 251 (1) (p), (q) and (r) of the Constitution and the Supreme Court authorities cited supra.
The subject matter in the case relates to the operation and interpretation of the Constitution as it affects the EFCC and ICPC (both of which are agencies of the Federal Government).