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A’court voids judgment restraining EFCC from freezing accounts of Benue government

A’court voids judgment restraining EFCC from freezing accounts of Benue government
September 23
19:41 2022

The court of appeal sitting in Makurdi has overturned the judgment of a federal high court which stopped the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from placing a restriction on the accounts of the Benue government.

In 2018, the EFCC had frozen three bank accounts belonging to the government of Benue state.

The accounts were frozen after Samuel Ortom, governor of the state, defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The EFCC had linked the governor to an alleged fraud to the tune of N22 billion, but Ortom had denied the allegation, claiming he was being witch-hunted for dumping the APC.

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In 2019, the federal high court in Makurdi, in a judgment by Mobolaji Olajuwon, said the accounts that were frozen do not fall within the “classes or categories of accounts” liable to be restricted by the EFCC.

The judge, therefore, declared the action of the EFCC as illegal, null and void, adding that the order issued by EFCC to the affected banks to freeze the state’s accounts was not earlier obtained from a federal high court.

He also ordered the anti-graft agency to pay the government N50 million, and two banks to pay N25 million, over the restriction imposed on the accounts.

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The court also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining EFCC from further freezing the state’s accounts domiciled in financial institutions.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the anti-graft commission approached the court of appeal.

According to a statement by the EFCC, in a judgment delivered by M.S. Hassan on Thursday, the appellate court held that the commission has powers to place any account (state governments’ accounts inclusive) on “post-no-deposit (PND)” for 72 hours for the purpose of investigations, without a court order.

The court also set aside the N50 million damages awarded against the EFCC by the lower court.

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The court also held that banks are legally bound to obey orders from the EFCC on PND.

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