22 March 2019

Nigeria: Court Adjourns Hearing in Patience Jonathan's N2.4 Billion Forfeiture Suit

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday ordered parties to file affidavit disclosing what transpired in appellate courts concerning the suit seeking to forfeit to the Federal Government the N2.4 billion linked to Patience Jonathan.

EFCC had said the various funds were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

Two firms, Lawari Furniture and Bath Limited, had, through their counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed the appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge a January 12, 2018 judgement of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, which had affirmed the interim forfeiture order made on April 26, 2017 by the Federal High Court, Lagos, in respect of the money.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through its counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had opposed the appeal at the hearing before the Supreme Court.

In the lead judgement, the apex court on March 12, affirmed the order of Justice Olatoregun for the interim forfeiture of the money.

The court also directed her to return to the Federal High Court in Lagos to explain why the fund should not be permanently forfeited to government.

In a separate appeal, a five-man bench of the apex court unanimously handed down a similar verdict affirming an interim forfeiture of N2, 421,953,522 in the bank account of Lawari Furniture and Bath Limited, a firm which the EFCC had linked to Mrs. Jonathan.

The lead judgment read by Justice Sidi Bage on behalf of Justice Sanusi, who was absent, stated that the apex court would only interfere with concurrent decisions of the lower courts only "when there is a special circumstance where the decision is perverse or there is misapplication of law or the facts.

"I have seen none of these in this appeal," the judgement reads. "I find no merit in this appeal and it is accordingly dismissed."

The court also rejected her prayer to strike down the provisions of Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act and other fraud-related offences Act relied on by the High Court to issue the order of interim forfeiture.

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