A Supreme Court sitting has ruled that the nation’s anti-graft agency, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) no longer has the right to arrest or prosecute any state governor after his tenure.
This decision was made in the ruling of the case involving dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN vs. the federal republic of Nigeria, last week.
The Supreme Court has held that the EFCC does not have the powers to prosecute offenses that are not corruption cases and that the only corruption cases it can investigate are cases involving the movement of cash from Nigeria to foreign countries and corruption cases involving federal finances, being a creation of federal law.
The court also held that the EFCC has no power to look into the finances of states. Thus if a governor stole money from a state where he was governor, the EFCC has no power to prosecute that governor.
The governor can only be prosecuted by the attorney general of the state or the Nigerian police, or any other agency that is covered by the Criminal Code, Penal code, or any other law.
Thus the EFCC, by the judgment in the case of Dr. Joseph Nwobika SAN VS Federal Republic of Nigeria, can no longer hide under section 12 to 18, and section 46 of the EFCC Amended Act 2004, to prosecute all kinds of cases whether emanating from the state or federal government, as its powers are regulated by the global action against corruption as regulated by the United Nations conventions which Nigeria signed.
The federal government also can no longer use the EFCC to control the governors of the state and the federal government can no longer use the EFCC to persecute any politician that is not in its good book.
States are now free to make their own laws to establish anti-corruption agencies to deal with corruption cases emanating in the states, though the Criminal Code and penal code have provisions that deal with corruption.
This court ruling implies that the EFCC may no longer have the power to prosecute former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, for corruption in the case that is pending before the court.
Also, the EFCC may no longer have the power to prosecute some former governors of Abia state who are placed on a travel watch list and their children that are also being investigated for corruption because the subject matter is money belonging to Abia State.
But by virtue of the Criminal Code law of Abia state, it is the police or the Attorney general of Abia state that can prosecute those former governors and their children for stealing Abia state money.
On the other hand, states like Imo State where the sitting governor believes that former governor Rochas Okorocha stole from Imo State, can now use the police to investigate Rochas and prosecute him in the state High court for stealing Imo State money, if the investigation shows that he stole money.
This decision may have dwelt a very big blow to any fight against corruption as governors of the states can now steal as they like.
A governor and his cronies can now steal as much as they want from the State, and all he needs to do is to ensure that the new governor was installed by them and the new governor would watch the back of the old governor, although this is subject to the powers of the police to charge anyone to court but the powers of Nolle prosequi of the Attorney general of the state under section 179 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and under the Criminal Code and penal code is still supervening and all-embracing.
Also, the EFCC can no longer investigate government contractors or anybody that was complicit in stealing or embezzlement of state money.