The Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa on Wednesday issued an order restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from investigating assets declared by former Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, which has been verified by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The judgement pertained to assets the former governor declared between 2007 and 2020 when he was the governor and member of the House of Representatives.
Dickson had told the court that when he was in the House of Representatives over 15 years ago, he obtained loans from commercial banks to make the affected investments through the family investment vehicle known as the Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated. The mortgage of some of these loans are still running. These investments, loans and liabilities were declared with the CCB before he became Governor and ever since.
The presiding Judge, Hon Justice Isah H. Dashien, ruled in the suit no: FHC/CS/81/2021, between the Registered Trustees of the Seriake Dickson Incorporated; Chief Henry Seriake Dickson, the first and second plaintiffs respectively and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (the defendant/respondents) that the assets acquired with loans when the former Governor was a member of House of Representatives should not be investigated any further having been declared before the CCB, which issued a certificate of verification for them.
The Judgment affirmed an earlier verdict of the Federal High Court which stated that the former Governor had complied with all the constitutional requirements of the CCB in asset declaration. Therefore it was contrary to the stipulation of the Law for the EFCC to open investigation into assets that were declared over the years before the relevant body, the CCB, and for which the CCB issued verification certificates. The earlier judgement noted that in addition to declaration of assets that the Former Governor while in office subjected himself to the Voluntary Assets and Income declaration scheme of the federal government, VADES, and paid taxes on the affected assets therefore the attorney general and other federal government agencies were perpetually restrained.
The court ruled that by virtue of the judgment and orders of the Federal High Court last year in suit number FHC/YNG//CS/40/2020, the commission lacked the powers to open further investigation into investments made by the Registered Trustees of the Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated.
The judge further granted the order affirming the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court that the ‘invitation and interrogation of the 2nd plaintiff by the 2nd defendant (the EFCC,) and the bid to arrest, interrogate and/or detain officers and trustees of the first plaintiff ( the Registered Trustees of the Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated) by the EFCC over matter which deal with or relate to investments made by the 1st Plaintiff is illegal, unconstitutional and a disregard of the valid and subsisting orders of a competent court.”
Justice Dashien granted the application of the plaintiffs, for “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, its officers, men, agents or privies from inviting the 2nd plaintiff, officers and managers or Trustees of the 1st plaintiff over any matter dealing with or relating to any investment made by the 1st plaintiff as covered or affected by the said judgment of the Federal High Court in suit no FHC/YNF/CS/40/2020.
The judge stressed that the EFCC cannot lawfully arrest, investigate and/or prosecute the former Governor who declared the assets in question and for which the verifying authorities, the CCB issued certificates of verification before he became Governor.
Reacting to the judgement, Dickson thanked the judiciary for fairly intervening in his matter and urged those in authority to always allow institutions to do their job without undue pressure and enjoined Nigerians to work towards strengthening them.
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