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Ex-Imo Speaker faults judgement on state finance probe

Godfrey Dikeocha, a former speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, disagrees with a ruling by the Supreme Court that forbids the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from looking into the financial operations of state governments.

He claimed that the court’s ruling would promote dishonest behavior among state-level politicians.

Dikeocha continued by saying that state assemblies were unable to examine the budgets of the various states, and he urged the National Assembly to look into the situation.

The Supreme Court had declared earlier in June that the EFCC lacked the authority to investigate state finances or bring charges against a governor who may have allegedly embezzled from the public funds.

The court also prohibited the anti-graft agency from looking into state government contractors or anybody else judged complicit in the suspected misappropriation of public funds in the case numbered SC/CR/161/2020.

Dikeocha spoke on Tuesday in Abuja at the third season premiere of the anti-corruption program Corruption Tori on Signature TV.

He said, “I don’t agree with what the Supreme Court said recently that the EFCC should not look into the finances of states. I don’t think the Supreme Court was helping us with that because what you are saying is that everybody should do as he likes.

“That is not in the public interest, in fact, that is a signal for corruption to be let loose in Nigeria. Even if they find a lacuna in that, I suggest that the National Assembly make relevant laws to close that loophole. I don’t accept it and it’s not possible for the state assembly that is presently constituted in Nigeria to check what is going on in their states.

“During our own time, we could summon a governor but most state assemblies can not even summon a commissioner. How do you now want them to go and set up an anti-corruption agency that will look into the finances of state governments, it’s not possible.”

In order to minimize corruption in the public sector, he also suggested paying civil officials living salaries.

With their current pay, federal officials would find it challenging to refrain from corrupt behavior, the former Speaker indicated.

“My take is that if we want to start solving corruption in Nigeria, let us start giving our civil servants a living wage.

“When a child is hungry, the child steals. We are pursuing the small thief and leaving the big thieves.”

In the lawsuit brought by Joseph Nwobike SAN against the Federal Government, the court ruled that the EFCC lacked the authority to prosecute crimes unrelated to corruption because it was established by federal law.

The agency can only look into corruption cases involving the transfer of money from Nigeria to other countries and instances involving government funds, it was further stated.

The Court ruled that the only entities authorized to bring charges against the governors under the Criminal Code, Penal Code, or any other legislation are the state’s Attorney General, the police, or any other entity protected by those laws.

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