The Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa has entered a judgment order in favour of former Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Seriake Dickson, on a case over the assets he declared between 2007 and 2020.
Senator Dickson, when he was in the House of Representatives about 15 years ago, had obtained loans from commercial banks for investments through his family investment vehicle known as the Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated.
While the mortgage of some of the loans is said to be running, the investments, loans and liabilities were declared with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) before he became governor and ever since.
Justice Isah Dashien ruled in suit no: FHC/CS/81/2021, filed by the Registered Trustees of the Seriake Dickson Incorporated and Senator Seriake Dickson (the first and second plaintiffs) against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC (the defendant/respondent).
He held that the assets acquired with loans when the former governor was a member of the House of Representatives should not be investigated any further, having been declared before the CCB which issued a certificate of verification for them.
The court affirmed an earlier verdict of the Federal High Court which stated that Senator Dickson had complied with all the constitutional requirements of the CCB in asset declaration.
It ruled that by virtue of the judgment and orders of the Federal High Court last year in suit number FHC/YNG//CS/40/2020, the EFCC lacked the powers to open a further investigation into investments made by the Registered Trustees of the Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated.
The court, therefore, granted the order affirming the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court that the ‘invitation and interrogation of the second plaintiff by the second defendant (the EFCC), and the bid to arrest, interrogate and/or detain officers and trustees of the first plaintiff (the Registered Trustees of the Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated) by the EFCC over matter which deal with or relate to investments made by the first plaintiff is illegal, unconstitutional, and a disregard of the valid and subsisting orders of a competent court.”
Justice Dashien also granted the application of the plaintiffs, for “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, its officers, men, agents or privies from inviting the second plaintiff, officers and managers or Trustees of the first plaintiff over any matter dealing with or relating to any investment made by the first plaintiff, as covered or affected by the said judgment of the Federal High Court in suit no FHC/YNF/CS/40/2020.”
He stressed that the EFCC cannot lawfully 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.
The previous court had held that it was contrary to the stipulation of the Law for the EFCC to open an investigation into assets that were declared over the years before the relevant body – the CCB, and for which it issued verification certificates.
It noted that in addition to the declaration of assets, the former governor while in office subjected himself to the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme of the Federal Government (VADES) and paid taxes on the affected assets, therefore the attorney-general and other Federal Government agencies were perpetually restrained.
Reacting to the latest judgement, Senator Dickson thanked the judiciary for their intervention and urged Nigerians to support an independent judiciary and public institutions, including the EFCC.
He also urged operators of the institutions to be dispassionate and fair in carrying out their sensitive responsibilities, stressing that the agencies were doing a very important job and should be supported.
The former governor asked those in authority to allow all institutions to do their job without undue pressure and asked Nigerians to work towards strengthening them.