The Federal High Court in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, has restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from investigating the assets declared by former Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson.
The ex-governor was in August grilled by the EFCC on alleged asset declaration infractions and diversion of N17.5 billion ecological funds
But in the judgment delivered on November 15 by Isah Dashien of the Federal High Court in Yenogoa, it ruled that the assets acquired by the former governor ”with loans” when he was a member of the House of Representatives ”should not be investigated any further having been declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).”
The court said a ‘certificate of verification’ for assets had been issued to the former governor.
The judgment followed an application by the Seriake Dickson Trust and Mr Dickson, with the EFCC sued as the defendant.
The judge also granted the prayer of the plaintiffs, for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC, its officers, men, agents or privies from inviting Mr Dickson, officers and managers or Trustees of the company over any matter dealing with or relating to any investment made by the company.
The court premised its judgment on the previous judgment and orders of the Federal High Court last year in suit number FHC/YNG//CS/40/2020, which stated that the anti-corruption agency lacked the powers to open a further investigation into investments made by the Registered Trustees of the Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated.
Mr Dashien, however, stated that the EFCC could not arrest, investigate and/or prosecute the former governor who declared the assets in question and for which the verifying authorities, the CCB issued certificates of verification before he became governor.
Speaking shortly after his invitation to the EFCC in August, Mr Dickson said his interrogation was based on a petition sent to the EFCC by a civil society group, alleging diversion of N17.5 billion ecological funds and assets declaration breaches contained.
“The petition further alleged that the money was used for my re-election in 2019. The fact is that there was no such donation about the 2012 flood in Bayelsa,” he stated in a statement shared with PREMIUM TIMES by his spokesperson, Fidelis Soriwei.
The alleged assets declaration issue, according to him, related to investments of his family trust, which he said he incorporated while being a member of the House of Representatives.
He said the family trust referred to as Seriake Dickson Trust was incorporated to hold his family assets and investments which were made between 1996 and 2012 before I became governor.
Denying any wrongdoing, Mr Dickson said he incorporated the family trust between 1996 and 2012 before becoming governor, adding that the investments were “funded by loans and advances and repaid from salaries, allowances, savings and others”.
The recent court judgement was silent on the N17.5 billion ecological funds which were allegedly diverted by Mr Dickson.
In 2016, an investigation conducted by the ICIR, also published on PREMIUM TIMES, revealed how billions of naira dedicated for ecological concerns were mismanaged across states in the country.
Established in 1981, the Ecological funds were created to solve serious environmental problems such as soil erosion, flooding, drought, desertification, oil spillage, general environmental pollution, storms, tornadoes, bush fires, crop pests, landslides, earthquakes, as well as prevent suffering and possible death from these natural disasters.
According to the ICIR, between 2007 and 2014, contracts for 19 ecological related projects in the six core Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers were awarded by the federal government at the cost of N38.6 billion, most of which were shoddily done or abandoned.ⓘ