Wednesday , 1 December 2021
Home > Articles > The EFCC and Fayose’s frozen funds
Ayo Fayose, no immunity from investigation

The EFCC and Fayose’s frozen funds

Ayo Fayose, the governor of Ekiti State and constant thorn in the flesh of the President Muhammadu Buhari adminstration, tweeted yesterday: “My personal Account of at Zenith Bank has been frozen courtesy of Buhari led APC [All Progressives Congress” tyrannical govt”.

Fayose belongs to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and many of the party’s supporters believe he is the only stalwart who hasn’t been cowed into silence by the federal government.

Fayose, in characteristic combative fashion, called the act to freeze his account “criminal and illegal” because of the “immunity clause” in the Nigerian Constitution. He threatened not to leave the bank’s premises until he receives a statement confirming his account is frozen, so that he can challenge it in court.

An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) spokesman disagreed with the governor on the immunity issue: “We froze the account because Fayose has no immunity against investigations. Let me clarify that the 1999 Constitution does not grant immunity to governors or public officers against investigation. The governors and others enjoying the immunity clause in Section 308 cannot be prosecuted. Therefore, Fayose cannot stop EFCC from doing its job.”

Section 308 of the constitution states:

308. (1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, but subject to subsection (2) of this section –

(a) no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office;

(b) a person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise; and

(c) no process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued:

Provided that in ascertaining whether any period of limitation has expired for the purposes of any proceedings against a person to whom this section applies, no account shall be taken of his period of office.

(2) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party.

(3) This section applies to a person holding the office of President or Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor; and the reference in this section to “period of office” is a reference to the period during which the person holding such office is required to perform the functions of the office.

This means that someone who is still in office as a governor can’t have criminal or civil proceedings stated against them, they can’t be arrested or imprisoned during their term, and they can’t be required to appear in court.

There is nothing in the constitution that states that person can’t be investigated by the relevant authorities. This means that the EFCC can investigate or restrict the bank accounts of a governor as part of an investigation, if they believe financial crimes are being committed, but can’t charge the person to court while they are still in office.

It remains to be seen whether there are reasonable grounds for the EFCC to take this line of action, or if it was just intended to intimidate a vocal opponent of the Buhari administration.

There has been speculation that Fayose had 1.3bn naira ($4.6m) in the frozen account. The EFCC would not confirm nor deny this claim.

Download PDF

Check Also

24 young Nigerians held illegally by the police – activist Bayyanar Mahadi

11 December 2020 Bayyanar Mahadi, a Nigerian activist, has detailed how 24 young men were …