The court of appeal sitting in Abuja has stripped the special presidential investigative panel headed Okoi Obono-Obla, of its powers to prosecute suspects.
The court also ordered the panel not seize assets belonging to fraud suspects.
A five-member panel of the appellate court, led by Hussein Muhktar, gave the ruling on Monday.
The judgement followed a request by Tijani Tumsah, a civil servant, at the ministry of power, works and housing, whose assets were seized.
A high court had ordered the seizure following a case instituted by the presidential panel.
In a reaction to the court order, Tumsah approached the appellate court, through his lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, a senior advocate of Nigeria.
The court also held that the panel can apply for forfeiture of the properties belonging to public officers under the EFCC Act.
Festus Keyamo, counsel of the panel, had argued that the lower court has the jurisdiction to grant an interim order of forfeiture.
He arguedthat the SPIP, being an agent of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, can exercise prosecutorial powers under the EFCC Act.
In resolving all the issues canvassed by the parties, the court of appeal held that: “The Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act does not confer any prosecutorial powers on the SPIP. The powers conferred on the SPIP under the Act is limited to investigation and cannot prosecute under the Act or under the EFCC Act or any other Act.
“The SPIP, upon conclusion of investigation can only submit its report to the President. The SPIP cannot obtain forfeiture orders from any Court whatsoever. The SPIP cannot exercise the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation or the Chairman of the EFCC.
“The court has inherent powers to set aside an interim order of forfeiture. The SPIP cannot act outside its enabling Statute.”
Based on this decision of the court of appeal, the SPIP can no longer continue seizing properties of public officers, detention of private citizens and filing charges against citizens in court.
The power of the SPIP, according to the court, is now limited to investigation and submission of its report to the president.
The SPIP cannot apply for forfeiture of properties or file a charge against any person in court.