The clampdown on accounts of some state governments (Benue and Akwa Ibom so far) seems to cause ripples in Rivers State. The governor has reacted with a warning, calling the action the worst coup in the nation’s history. Rivers State may have big reason to fee worried.
Right from the days of Peter Odili as governor of Rivers State, there has been a subsisting court order barring the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or any other security agencies from tampering or even investigating the financial transactions of the Rivers State government.
The state government had dragged the EFCC then to court, saying the agency had no powers under the 1999 constitution to probe the finances of the state government, and that the task was that of the Rivers State House of Assembly. The court upheld that position and the officers of the Rivers State government thereafter, from Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to Nyesom Wike, have continued to wear that order like a shield.
Gov Wike, who seems to be having a running batter with his predecessor now at the federal level, has always reiterated that court order at press briefings, saying until it is countered by a court of competent jurisdiction, Rivers State government is secure and untouchable by the EFFC.
Some efforts have been made in the past to secure a higher order but it has not succeeded yet. Governors of the state have also ensured that the House of Assembly is always in close relationship with the executive for obvious reasons, since by law; it is the organ that could be used to get at the governor.
Now, as the EFCC begins freezing of accounts of some state governments, the Rivers State Governor has reacted ferociously, declaring the action as nothing short of a coup. He described it as the worst coup since the return to democracy.
He stated that there is no worse form of impunity than attempting to cripple a tier of government simply because the Federal Government plans to attain unconstitutional political mileage.
Speaking on national issues at the Government House Port Harcourt on Thursday, Governor Wike said that the ultimate target of the Federal Government is Rivers State, where they have already detailed the EFCC to carry out very unconstitutional activities.
He said: “There is no worse impunity than for the EFCC to shutdown a tier of government through the freezing of the accounts of two State Governments. An agency of federal government has frozen the accounts of Akwa Ibom and Benue State Governments. This is the worst coup against the constitution and the law-abiding people of those states. But the target is not Benue or Akwa Ibom States. The real target is Rivers State. The EFCC as a federal agency has no business with State Funds. That is the responsibility of the State House of Assembly “.
He said that Rivers State Government under former governor Odili obtained got a court judgment that the EFCC has no constitutional power to investigate state funds, pointing out that the EFCC is yet to vacate that order at a superior court.
Governor Wike noted that the Federal Government has continued to use the EFCC for illegal actions in Rivers State, despite the Attorney General of Rivers State writing to the EFCC and attaching the said judgement against the Federal Agency.
The FG is said to have intensified efforts to vacate that court order to enable their fingers get at the finances of the Rivers State government. Some opposition persons hinted that it may not take a very long time going forward.
Governor Wike said that he was not moved by the sack of former Director General of DSS, noting that it was a function of internal politics. “If you are sacking Lawan Daura for coup at the National Assembly, what will you do with a man who overthrew two state governments through two separate coups?” he asked.
Governor Wike added that the Federal Government has enthroned a culture of impunity using all security agencies to destroy democracy.
He said: “The sack of the DG of DSS is mere internal politics. If not, even the Inspector General of Police has done worse. The Inspector General of Police invaded the Benue State House of Assembly. He also invaded the Rivers State High Court Complex. No action has been taken against the Inspector General of Police “.