A Former Director of Public Prosecution, Lagos State, Fola Arthur-Worrey, has faulted the action of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) noting that the agency has no power to freeze the account of a state government.
The legal practitioner, in an interview on Channels Television’s Breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said the account of a state government is a public treasury with proceeds of taxes, revenues and federal allocations and cannot be termed as proceeds of crime.
“I do not think it was ever the intention of the legislature to allow the EFCC to just block access to a public account from which the machinery of government can run.
“You cannot classify the account of a state government which is principally the proceeds of taxes, revenues and Federal government allocation as proceeds of crime. What is the basis?
“A public treasury is a public property. It is illegal, to freeze such accounts. They don’t have that power. No agency can be given such power. If any agency has such power, that means you can disrupt anything. You will stop the payment of salary, services, debts etc,” he said.
Arthur-Worrey explained further that the EFCC is founded based on some law and regulations and its powers and activities are also defined by the law and regulations.
“The EFCC is a creation of statute and therefore its powers are defined and limited by statute. It restrained powers lie in relation to where a crime has been committed. And then you trace a specific amount or thing to a particular place and then you seek to either restrain its use or you get an interim forfeiture order.
“Principally to prevent that money from being used or for that money to use continued being used for crime.
“So, if you say because I am an anti-graft agency, I can freeze the state govt account, there is no correlation. What is the correlation?”
Arthur-Worrey’s reaction comes few days after the EFCC froze the bank accounts of the Benue State government domiciled in three banks. The anti-graft agency alleged an abuse of Benue State’s security funds by the state government.
The bank accounts were however unfrozen a day after. This was after the state government described the action as an alleged political witch-hunt aimed at frustrating Governor Samuel Ortom’s efforts after he left the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had also condemned the EFCC’s action.