A Federal High Court in Lagos State will, on October 7, 2021, deliberate on the final forfeiture of the $5.78m and N2.4bn linked to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Justice Tijani Ringim fixed the date after taking arguments from counsel to the parties in the matter.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed the application for the forfeiture in 2017 before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, with Mrs Patience Jonathan alongside LA Wari Furniture and Bathes as defendants in the suit,
The monies were said to be warehoused in Skye Bank Plc and Ecobank Plc respectively.
Justice Olatoregun, on April 26, 2017, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the monies, following an ex-parte application by the EFCC.
The order was affirmed by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
However, midway to the conclusion of hearing on the final forfeiture, Olatoregun retired from the Bench in 2019.
The development compelled the Chief Judge of the court to re-assign the matter to Justice Chuka Obiozor for hearing.
But Justice Obiozor could not hear the case before his transfer to the court’s Benin division.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, narrated to Justice Ringim how far the matter had gone.
Oyedepo said, “This matter is a suit filed before your learned brother, Justice Olatoregun, now retired, where we prayed for the final forfeiture of $5,781,173.55, warehoused in Skye Bank Plc and N2,421,953,502.78, property of LA Wari Furniture and Bathes in Ecobank Plc.
“It was instituted and an interim order was granted on April 24, 2017, upon which it went up to the Supreme Court and an application for its final forfeiture was moved, but the trial judge didn’t deliver judgement before retiring.
“It was upon that fact that the file was transferred to the registry where it was reassigned to the former judge and subsequently Your Lordship.”
Counsel to Mrs Jonathan, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), also informed the judge that the case was adjourned for mention because it was coming up for the first time before him.
But counsel to the companies, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), urgued the court to adjourn the case on the premise that it was starting afresh and that he intended to file an application challenging the constitutionality of the entire proceedings.
Ozekhome prayed the court to grant a long adjournment to enable him an application to the effect that the case is supposed to start afresh.
But Oyedepo opposed the application, praying the court not to grant it, because, according to him, there is a procedure enshrined in section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offences Act, which the EFCC had complied with, except the last step, which is a motion for final forfeiture.
He invited the judge to look at the proceedings of February 17, 2021 where the former judge adjourned hearing of the motion for final forfeiture till April 13, which could not be held because of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria’s strike. He prayed further that should the court be inclined to grant an adjournment, it should be for the motion of final forfeiture.
In a bench ruling, Justice Ringim held that such proceeding was special and could not be truncated by any application.
He said, “The court cannot adjourn the matter because of an application which is yet to be filed. However, due to the nature of the application as hinted by the second respondent, the court will not shut the application out.
“This court will adjourn for the hearing of the motion for final forfeiture that is pending.
“Consequently, the second respondent is hereby ordered to file the application, if any, within 14 days from today and the plaintiff will have one week to respond. It will be heard alongside the motion for final forfeiture.”
He adjourned further proceedings till October 7.
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