⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Attorney General of Abia State v. Attorney-General of Federation & Ors. (2007) – SC
⦿ LITE HOLDING
The Supreme Court only has jurisdiction in matters between the Federation and the State.
⦿AREA OF LAW
Attorney General of Abia State
Attorney General Federation
(2007) NGSC 68
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, J.S.C.
- FOR THE APPELLANT
- Chief S. U. Akuma Attorney-General of Abia State.
- FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The plaintiff claims that the agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission a.k.a EFCC, had caused to be printed in February, 2006, the Statement of Account of Abia State Government’s House and other State Departments without authorization or consent of the plaintiff.
The plaintiff also alleges that the EFCC had received copies of Statements of Account of the plaintiff from the plaintiff’s bankers including but not limited to Hallmark Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank and Manny Bank; that the powers to investigate and prosecute financial crimes vested in the EFCC does not extend to the management of the plaintiff’s accounts and that the EFCC within the past one year had used its statutory powers in such a way as to freeze the accounts owned and operated by the Bayelsa State Government and the Plateau State Government; that the Government of Abia State does not come within the provisions of section 7(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and as such its financial activities as a Government are not within the contemplation of the EFCC Act; that unless restrained the 1st Defendant’s agents acting through the EFCC will take steps to freeze or render inoperative the accounts of the Abia State Government.
⦿ PRELIMINARY ISSUE(S)
- Whether the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to entertain this suit?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
[APPEAL: STRUCK OUT]
- ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE PLAINTIFF. THE SUPREME COURT HELD THAT IT DOES NOT HAVE THE JURISDICTION TO ENTERTAIN THIS SUIT.
i. Can it be said that the facts pleaded in the Statement of Claim disclose any dispute between the plaintiff and the defendants in this action within the meaning of the said section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution? The answer is clearly in the negative. There is no single complaint against the 1st defendant as representing the Federal Government in this action neither is there any complaint against the other defendants. All the complaints are directly against the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or its agents in the exercise of the functions conferred on the organization by law. The law recognizes the fact that in the exercise of such functions, as those of EFCC, the officers might breach certain individual or corporate rights which would necessitate initiation of legal action to secure redress that is why section 2(a) and (b) of the EFCC Act, 2004 clearly clothes the said Commission with legal – personality thereby making it possible for it to sue or be sued where the circumstance arises. In the instant case, I hold the considered view that the plaintiff can institute an action against EFCC in the appropriate High Court for the reliefs it deems fit but not in this court as EFCC is neither a state nor the federation nor the National Assembly. EFCC has also not been shown to have taken the actions as agents of the 1st defendant.
⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per
⦿ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution: The Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Federation and a state or between states if and in so far as that dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.
⦿ REFERENCED (CASE)
It has been held by this Court vide Belgore, JSC (as he then was) in AG of the Federation vs AG of Abia State (2001) 11 NWLR (pt. 725) 689-at 737, inter alia, that the term dispute as used in section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution “Involves acts of argument, controversy, debate, claims as to rights whether in law or facts varying opinion, whether passive or violent or any disagreement that can lead to public anxiety or disquiet…”
⦿ REFERENCED (OTHERS)
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
From the questions and reliefs reproduced supra, it is without doubt that the complaints of the plaintiff are against the activities of the agents of or operations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. There is no complaint against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as represented by the 1st Defendant in this action. It should be noted that the Attorneys-General of all the States of the Federation except Abia State, have been joined by the plaintiff as co-defendants in this action and that by relief (viii) supra the plaintiff seeks to restrain the said defendants jointly and severally from using the EFCC to freeze or render inoperable any account or accounts of the plaintiff. The above relief presupposes that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is under the control management, and direction of the defendants whereas in actual fact, it is not. Throughout the Statement of Claim, there is no single complaint against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 which is the Act establishing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) whose activities are being called to question in the suit. – Onnoghen JSC. AG Abia v. AG Federation (2007)