By Ameh Ejekwonyilo (Abuja) and Blessing Ibunge (Port Harcourt)
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday stopped the Nigeria Police Force, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the Department of State Services (DSS) from executing any search warrant on the residence of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
The applicant (Wike) had in May last year, sued the IGP, the police, EFCC and DSS following plans by the defendants to investigate him while in office as a governor.
Delivering judgement on the suit marked ABJ/FHC/CS/383/2017, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, held that it was gratifying to note that parties are in agreement that the plaintiff cannot be investigated based on the provision of section 308(1) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary.
The court stated that from the combined reading of Section 308 of the constitution, and Sections 149 and 150 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, three situations have been prohibited.
Justice Mohammed noted that the provisions stipulated that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against a person protected by section 308.
It was Justice Mohammed’s view that parties in their submissions lost the purport and intendment of section 308(1)(c) of the constitution.
The court held that “a careful reading of section 308(1)(c) shows that the constitution has prohibited court process requiring appearance of a serving governor before any investigative panel.
Justice Mohammed stated that the argument of the police and the EFCC that Wike’s residence can be searched without his presence “is untenable”.
The judge said that it was wrong for the defendants to import meaning or interpretation not included in section 308 of the constitution by the draftsman.
Mohammed in dismissing the objection of the defendants to the suit was of the opinion that the court cannot go contrary to Section 308 of the constitution because of the public policy principle, which is protected by the constitution itself.
The court further held that arguments of 2nd and 3rd defendants that their enabling laws permit them to carry out investigations are untenable.
In addition, the court noted that the essence of Section 308 was to accord immunity to a serving governor so as not to cause distractions to the governor in the act of governance.
Therefore, Mohammed held that the suit of the plaintiff has succeeded and has merit.
Consequently, he granted the following reliefs against the defendants.
Meanwhile, Wike has inaugurated Committees on the administration and disbursement of the N2billion civil servants revolving loan scheme and the Rivers State N200million Monthly Traders and Young Entrepreneurs Interest Free Loan Scheme.
While inaugurating the committees at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike said that they were vital because they revolve around the empowerment of Rivers’ people.
He said that the civil servants revolving loan scheme was initiated by the Peter Odili administration, but neglected by the Rotimi Amaechi administration.
He said that his administration was reintroducing scheme because of the need to reach indigent civil servants. The governor noted that the loan scheme is dedicated to civil servants between grade levels one and 13.