A Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and two banks to jointly pay the sum of N100 million to the Benue State government.
The EFCC and the two banks – United Bank of Africa (UBA) and Fidelity Bank – are being fined for illegally freezing the accounts of the state government last year.
Delivering judgement in the suit filed by the Benue State Government challenging the legality of the EFCC’s action, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon on Tuesday, ordered the anti-graft agency to pay the Benue State Government the sum of N50 million as damages, while both banks are to pay the sum of N25 million each.
Justice Olajuwon stated that the accounts of the Benue State Government that were frozen, do not fall within the classes or categories of accounts liable to be frozen by the EFCC.
She declared the action of the anti-corruption body as illegal, null and void, saying that the order by the EFCC to the affected Banks to freeze the accounts was not obtained from a Federal High Court.
The Judge, thereafter, granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC from further freezing State Government’s accounts domiciled in financial institutions.
Reacting to the judgement, the Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Michael Gusa described the judgement as sound, adding that the Ortom administration believes in the rule of law and due process, and would not fail to challenge any act of illegality on the State.
The EFCC had ordered the freezing of the accounts of Benue State Government in UBA and Fidelity Bank after Governor Samuel Ortom defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the premise that the governor’s security vote was being investigated.
Consequently, the state government, through the office of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, approached the court seeking a declaration that EFCC acted against the law when it directed the banks to freeze its accounts.