EFCC lacks powers to prosecute serving judges, Court of Appeal rules
Meanwhile, a court of appeal ruled on Monday that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) does not have statutory powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where such individuals have first been dismissed or retired by the National Judicial Council, the body saddled with disciplining erring judges, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal ruled on Monday.According to the appellate court, serving judicial officers can only be prosecuted for offences like murder, stealing and others if such offences were committed outside the discharge of their official duties. But once the offence was allegedly committed in the discharge of their duties, they must first be tried by the judicial council, NJC, and dismissed or retired before the EFCC can investigate or prosecute them, the court said.
The Court of Appeal’s decision was in respect of a suit brought by the EFCC against Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, a judge of the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, who was accused of unlawfully receiving $260,000 and N8.6 million through his bank account between 2013 and 2015.
The accused had challenged the jurisdiction of the Lagos Division of the Lagos State High Court to entertain the suit but was dismissed by the judge.
The Court of Appeal held that the High Court of Lagos State lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine the charge against the serving judicial officer and accordingly set aside the ruling of the lower court. It also upheld the preliminary objection filed by the appellant in the high court and dismissed the charge against him.