A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday adjourned to May 22, a suit seeking the final forfeiture to the federal government, of the sum of $5.8 million dollars belonging to a former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, further adjourned the suit, following argument by counsel to Mrs. Jonathan, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), that the respondent was not availed sufficient notice to file a response.
The court had on April 26 issued an interim order for forfeiture of the sum of $5.8 million belonging to Mrs. Jonathan.
The order followed an ex parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking a forfeiture of the sum to government, pending the determination of the motion on notice.
The court had granted the interim order and further directed that same be advertised in a national daily to enable any interested party to appear and show cause why the interim order should not be made final.
When the case was called yesterday, counsel to the respondent, (Adedipe), informed the court of a notice of appeal he had filed against the court’s ruling as well as a motion for stay of further proceedings.
He argued that the EFCC ought to have waited to abide the decision of the Court of Appeal in respect of the matter.
Adedipe also noted that the publication of the court’s order in the national daily was only done on May 11, adding that such notice was too short to allow for the filing of any response.
In response, lawyer to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, stressed that the business of the day was for any interested party to appear and show cause.
He noted that the argument of respondent ‘s counsel, fell outside the purview of the court’s business with respect to the matter at hand, and urged that progress be made.
In her observation, however, Justice Olatoregun noted that the suit would only be adjourned on the grounds that the time frame of the said publication was short.
She therefore, adjourned the case to May 22 for the respondent or any interested party to appear and show cause why the interim forfeiture order should not be made absolute.
Recall also that Justice Olatoregun had sometimes in November, 2016, granted a forfeiture order of the said sum following an application by the commission.
The court had however, in March (this year) vacated the earlier order, following an application by Mrs. Jonathan’s counsel, Adedipe, who had challenged the propriety of EFCC’s action.
The EFCC had then filed a new motion titled: ‘Action in Rem,’ seeking an order for interim forfeiture of the said $5.8 million lodged in the respondent’s Skye Bank account.
The commission also sought an order directing the interim forfeiture of N2.4 billion discovered in an Ecobank account in the name of La Wari Furniture and Bath Ltd, suspected to be proceeds of crime.
It further sought for the publication in any national newspaper, of the said order, to enable any interested party to appear and show why the interim order should not be made final.
In an affidavit, the commission averred that it received an intelligence report that funds suspected to be proceeds of crime were warehoused in a Skye Bank account belonging to Mrs. Jonathan.
It said the report was analysed and found worthy of investigation, adding that the ex- First Lady opened the account on February 7, 2013.
According to the commission, several cash deposits were made by the ex- First Lady in United States dollars, through Waripamo Dudafa, a former aide to ex- President Goodluck Jonathan.
The commission averred that another frequent depositor of funds into the said account was one Festus Iyoha, a steward in the State House, Abuja.
The EFCC said between February 8, 2013 and January 30, 2015, about $6.7 million suspected to be proceeds of crime were deposited into the account.
According to the commission, Jonathan had dissipated the funds, leaving a balance of about $5.7 million.
The commission further averred that if the fund was not forfeited in the interim, it may be fully dissipated by Jonathan.
It added that N2.03 billion, suspected proceeds of crime, was currently on fixed deposit in the account of La Wari Furniture, in addition to a credit balance of about N389 million.
The commission urged the court to grant the application in the interest of justice.
Granting the order, Justice Olatoregun adjourned the case till May 15, to enable any interested party to appear and show cause why the interim order should not be made final.