The Akwa Ibom State government said it had filed a N50bn lawsuit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for freezing its accounts.
According to the government, the lawsuit is a reaction to the unlawful freezing of its accounts by the Federal Government agency for 72 hours, noting that the development crippled both the economy and the reputation of the state.
The case is contained in suit No: FHE/UY/CS/137/18 between the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State as claimant, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Attorney General of the Federal, Zenith Bank PLC, Skye Bank PLC and United Bank for Africa PLC as defendants.
The claimant asked, “Whether the accounts of Akwa Ibom State Government held with banks or financial institutions fall within the financial crimes enforcement purview of section 34 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Established) Act 2004, or
“Whether the account of Akwa Ibom State Government with a bank or financial institution can be subjected to a freezing order pursuant to section 34 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Established) Act 2004.”
The writ of summons dated August 17, 2018, issued by Chief Assam Assam (SAN) of Lex Fori Partners, and made available to journalists in Uyo on Saturday, asked the defendants to cause an appearance to be entered within 30 days after service or risk judgement given in their absence.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko, revealed that the anti-graft agency did not have constitutional powers to freeze any state government’s account in Nigeria.
He said, “There is no basis even in the constitution of Nigeria or any other enabling law made by anybody whether the National Assembly or the state Assembly or any other convention that authorises any federal agency or any agency to shut down the account of a state government as done by the EFCC.
“I want to state clearly that even if there was to be an investigation that the EFCC was carrying out about whether there was any fraud committed against Akwa Ibom State in that circumstance, it should be the government of Akwa Ibom that should be the victim, so there was no basis for freezing the accounts.”
He said the freezing of the state government’s accounts for 72 hours hampered the economic, security and business operations in the state, adding that some prospective investors in the state diverted their investments elsewhere, thereby subjecting the state to huge economic loss.
“That singular attempt of freezing the accounts of the state government was shutting down the state. Akwa Ibom State was brought down on its knees; it was an attempt to paralyse and completely demobilise the activity of the state.
“We could not respond to economic, security and business exigencies. Most importantly, the investors that were coming to Akwa Ibom began to have a second thought and became worried about the status of their investment.
“Those who were on their way to the state began to go back. So, we suffered unquantifiable losses,” he said.
Nwoko, who described the EFCC’s denial of the freezing of the state account as a face-saving approach, added that the state government had evidence to prove that its accounts had been frozen.