The saga of Governor Ayodele Fayose’s frozen personal bank account by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has attracted controversies among top legal practitioners in Nigeria and the responsible anti-graft body.
When Vanguard contacted the Head, Media and Publicity, EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren didn’t state categorically that the anti-graft body froze the account of the verbose People’s Democratic Party governor but reiterated the constitutional powers of the body to undertake such an action.
In his words:
“Under the constitution, government executives don’t have immunity on investigation. They can be investigated while in office but can’t be prosecuted. Also, an account can be blocked during investigation.”
Other prominent Nigerian legal practitioners have also waded into the issue. Read their views below:
His account can be frozen – Sagay
The EFCC position was affirmed by Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, SAN, who said the commission had been empowered to freeze accounts or assets of anyone under investigation.
Sagay, who hinged his assertion on a Supreme Court verdict to buttress his point, said: “If the EFCC is investigating anybody and they have reasons to believe that somebody has acquired state assets for himself, they are empowered by the law to apply to a court to freeze those assets, including banking assets, pending the enquiry and possible trial. So, they have that power.
“For a governor, it is a unique situation, but the Supreme Court has already held that even if you enjoy immunity, you are also subject to being investigated. So, that would be one of the consequences of that investigation.”
It’s illegal – Ozekhome
It is illegal and unconstitutional for the account of a sitting governor to be frozen while in office. The governor enjoys immunity under Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution and for whatever purpose, his account cannot be frozen. Section 308 of the Constitution grants immunity to the governor and his deputy just as it grants immunity to the President and his vice-president.
“You cannot freeze the account of a President while he is still in office just like you cannot freeze the account of a governor while he is still in office. You can wait till he leaves office. Since he enjoys immunity, the same thing applies to his finances and all his property, he reiterated.