By Danjuma Terfa
A Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), United Bank of Africa (UBA) and Fidelity Bank to jointly pay the sum of N100 million to the Benue State government for freezing its accounts last year.
Delivering judgment in the suit number FHC/MKD/CS/46/2018 filed by the Benue State government challenging the legality of the EFCC freezing its accounts, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon ordered the anti-graft commission to pay the state government the sum of N50 million as damages, while UBA and Fidelity are to each pay the sum of N25 million.
Justice Olajuwon stated that the state government’s accounts 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 EFCC as illegal, null and void, adding that the order issued by EFCC to the affected banks to freeze Benue State accounts was not obtained from a Federal High Court.
The judge thereafter granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining EFCC from further freezing Benue State government accounts domiciled in financial institutions.
In a reaction, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Michael Gusa, described the judgment as sound, adding that the 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.
A few days after Governor Samuel Ortom defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), EFCC ordered the freezing of the accounts of Benue State Government in UBA and Fidelity Bank on the premise that the governor’s security vote was being investigated.
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.