For some time, the anti-graft agency has always been in the news for freezing of accounts of political figures, individuals and corporations; Many times, this act has been challenged by individuals in the court of law.
The Economic and financial crimes commission established by the Economic and financial crimes act 2004 has the special powers conferred on it by section 7 of the ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (ESTABLISHMENT) ACT, 2004
(a) cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed any offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes
(b) cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income;
Some of the laws the Economic and Financial Crime is empowered to enforce are as follows:
(a) the Money Laundering Act 2003; 2003 No.7 1995 N0. 13
(b) the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 1995;
(c) the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks
Act 1994, as amended;
(d) The Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991, as amended; and
(e) Miscellaneous Offences Act
(f) Any other law or regulations relating to economic and financial crimes,
including the Criminal code of penal code
- WHEN AND HOW CAN THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION FREEZE ACCOUNTS?
If the commission is satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence under the act or other enactments as listed above, the commission is to apply to the court exparte for power to issue or instruct a bank or other appropriate authority to issue an order which is addresses to the manager of the bank or any person in the control of the financial institution where the account is or believed to be or the head office of the bank to freeze the account 
From the above, it is crystal clear that for The commission to freeze the accounts of individual or corporation it suspects of impropriety, it needs an order from court and cannot unilaterally freeze accounts
The commission is also empowered by section 44 (2) (K) To compulsorily acquire immovable property or interest relating to the temporary taking possession for the purpose of any examination, investigation or enquiry
C). PRONOUNCEMENT OF COURT
- GTB v JOSHUA (2021) LPELR – 53173 (CA)
…It is clear from a reading of the entire Section 34 of the EFCC Act that the Commission if satisfied that money in the account of any person is made through the commission of an offence may apply to the Court ex-parte for the power to freeze the account. The EFCC may by an order issued by the Court direct the freezing of the account. The bank shall then take necessary steps to comply with the requirements of the order. “Order” rings a loud bell in both Subsections (2) and (3) of the said Section 34 of the EFCC Act. This is not surprising because the freezing of the account of a person will be done if the money is reasonably subjected by the Court to have been made through the commission of an offence. It is then that the Court makes the order sought by the EFCC. Without that order the EFCC cannot direct the freezing of the account of any person. Without the order the bank or any financial institution cannot freeze the account of any person. The order of the Court is the basis for any other action under the section as allegation that money is made through the commission of an offence is a serious allegation. It is for this reason that the bank must ensure that there is an order of Court before it proceeds to freeze the account of any person. That is what Section 34(3) means by the bank taking necessary steps to comply with the order. In my view, a bank fails to enquire whether or not EFCC had obtained an order of Court at its peril. I agree with learned counsel for the Respondent that the procedure set out in Section 34 of the EFCC Act must be followed by the EFCC and the bank or other financial institution…”
Per ABIRIYI ,JCA (Pp. 13-18, para. F-F)
- Savannah & chemical ind V Efcc and anor
“… From the clear reading of the said section, few things stand out which will be necessary to point out in the determination of this appeal. These are:
- That the Chairman of the Commission or any officer authorized by him, must be satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence;
2. Where he is satisfied of this fact, he is required to apply to Court exparte for power to issue an order (in this case, the freezing order);
3. Where such is granted, the Chairman of the Commission or any officer authorized by him may direct the bank in compliance with the order to freeze the account of the person;
4. Where the bank is in receipt of the directive, the manager or any other person in control of the financial institution shall ensure necessary steps are taken in compliance with the said directive. It is instructive to note that applying to Court exparte is a pre-condition necessary to exercise the powers contained in Section 34 of the EFCC Act.
- Savannah & chemical ind V Efcc and anor
To avoid abuse of power, the 1st Respondent under the same law it is claiming to have given the order to the 2nd Respondent to place a caution on the Appellant’s account must satisfy two conditions. One of which is that the Chairman of the 1st Respondent must be satisfied that the money in the account of the Appellant must be proceeds from the commission of crime. This is subjective to the Chairman of the Commission. The challenge with this is that if this power is not checked it will be subject to great abuse. If not checked, the Chairman who wakes up from the wrong side of his bed can just proceed against any person under the pretext that what a person has in its account is proceeds of crime and therefore give an instruction to a bank. This can be used against perceived enemies. Leaving such a power in the hand of a person who does not have the constitutional powers to determine what constitute a crime and indeed determine who is guilty of a crime is very dangerous. This is because one of such action can be very damaging. The constitutional powers to determine what constitute a crime is in the Court and not in anyone else no matter how highly placed. This is the constitutional power of the Court not even an administrative Tribunal and any law that gives that power to anyone apart from the Court will be contrary to the Constitution and be declared null and void.
D). ACTION AVAILABLE TO THE CITIZEN WHOSE ACCOUNT WAS FROZEN
Unilateral freezing of account is a breach of the Fundamental Human right to own moveable property as contained in Section 44 of the 1999 constitution
44. (1) No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law that, among other things –
(a) requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore and
(b) gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the
determination of his interest in the property and the amount of compensation to a court of law or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria.
Anyone whose account has been frozen without a court order to that effect can institute a fundamental human right action alleging that any of the rights provided for in the Constitution or African Charter on Human and people’s right has been infringed.
The appropriate court to for the applicant to apply to is the Federal High court or state high in the state where such infringement occurred or the division of the federal high court administratively responsible for the state
- Section 7 (2) ECONOMICS AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION ACT 2004
- SECTION 34(1) ECONOMICS AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION ACT 2004
- GTB v JOSHUA (2021) LPELR – 53173 (CA)
- Savannah & chemical ind V Efcc and anor (2020) LPELR – 51398 (CA)
- Order 2 rule 1 Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009
 Section 7 (2)
 SECTION 34(1)
 Order 2 rule 1 Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure)