The Akwa Ibom state government has slammed a N50 billion lawsuit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for freezing its accounts.
The state government in its suit with suit No: FHE/UY/CS/137/18 said the accounts which have remained frozen for 72 hours crippled both the economy and the reputation of the state.
Punch reports that the case is between the attorney general of the state and its respondents are the EFCC, the attorney general of the federation, Zenith Bank PLC, Skye Bank PLC and United Bank for Africa PLC.
The state government in the suit queried 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.
It also asked: “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.”
In the originating summons dated August 17 and issued by Chief Assam Assam (SAN) of Lex Fori Partners, the state prayed the court to ask the defendants to cause an appearance to be entered within 30 days after service or risk judgement given in their absence.
Also, the state’s attorney general, Uwemedimo Nwoko, said the EFCC lacked the constitutional powers to freeze any state government’s account in Nigeria.
Nwoko 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.”
According to him, 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 paralyze and completely demobilize 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.