A Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State, will on June 30 rule on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s objection to a suit challenging its powers to probe the Oyo State House of Assembly’s financial accounts.
Justice Uche Agumuo fixed the date after hearing the EFCC’s preliminary objection argued by its counsel, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Dr. Kemi Pinheiro and the Assembly’s counter argument by its counsel, Musibau Adetunbi SAN.
In the suit FHC/IB/CS/71/2022 filed on May 5, the Oyo Assembly, its Speaker and two other principal officers are contending among others, that no provision of the Constitution empowers the EFCC to probe the Oyo State Assembly and its principal officers without a formal complaint from the state’s Auditor-General.
The EFCC opposed them, praying the court to strike out/dismiss the suit.
At the resumption of proceedings on Tuesday, Pinheiro argued the preliminary objection via a May 23 motion on notice.
He contended that the cause of action having arose in July 2021, the Plaintiffs knew they ought to bring the action under Order 34 of the Court’s rules, but did otherwise to avoid the consequences of the failure to file the action within the three months of the occurrence as stipulated by Order 34.
Furthermore, he argued that it was not the case of the Plaintiff that the Defendant does not have the powers to investigate the Plaintiffs but that the power to audit the affairs of the Plaintiff lies in the Auditor-General of Oyo State, adding that section 125 does not relate to investigation but to auditing.
He contended that section 125 having not made mention of investigation, the court could not read investigation thereto, that insofar as the Defendant had not engaged in the auditing of the 1st Plaintiff, the instant suit was academic and ought to be struck out.
According to him, there is nothing in section 125 of the Constitution that excludes the Defendant from investigating the 1st Plaintiff.
Finally, he argued that the instant suit seeks certain declaration in favour of the Auditor General who was not made a party to the suit. He argued that the Court could not scrape the hair of the Auditor-General in his absence.
Opposing him, Adetumbi identified his counter-affidavit and written address in opposition to the motion on notice and adopted same. He argued that the Auditor-General is not a necessary party to this suit because there is no claim against the Auditor-General. He argued further that section 125 of the Constitution uses the word “periodic check” which by Black’s Law Dictionary means “to investigate”.
Adetumbi also argued that the instant suit is not for judicial review but for an interpretation of section 125 of the Constitution.
At the conclusion of proceedings, the court adjourned till 30th of June 2022 for ruling.