The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the forfeiture of two properties in Ikoyi, Lagos State, belonging to a former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Justice Mohammed Liman made the temporary forfeiture order following an exparte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
But in swift reaction last night, Saraki said the court must have been misled by the anti-graft agency into granting the order as neither him nor his lawyers were aware of any application for any forfeiture order.
The EFCC said the landed property "lying and known as No. 17A McDonald Road, Ikoyi," was reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.
It alleged in a supporting affidavit that Saraki, who served two terms as Kwara State Governor between 2003 and 2011, "withdrew over N12 billion cash from the account of the Kwara State Government and paid same into his accounts domiciled in two banks through one of his personal assistants, Abdul Adama, at different intervals."
The EFCC lawyer, Nnaemeka Omewa, said the court was empowered to order the temporary forfeiture of the landed asset to the federal government.
Justice Liman agreed with him.
After ordering the temporary forfeiture of the property, the judge directed the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper.
He gave 14 days for Saraki or anyone interested in the property to appear before him to show cause why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
However, Saraki in a statement signed the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity in his Media Office, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said there is a subsisting court order issued by the Federal High Court, Abuja, in which the same property was a subject matter and where the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Justice were parties.
The former senate president disclosed that the court in that case gave an order restraining the EFCC from taking any further action until the matter is determined.
"We are sure the Federal High Court judge in Lagos was not aware of all these facts and has therefore been misled into giving the temporary forfeiture order. The affected property, House Number 17 A and 17B, was specifically listed in the case against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in which the EFCC was part of the prosecution and the case went up to the Supreme Court where the apex court in its July 6, 2018 judgment ruled in his favour.
"The Supreme Court has ruled that the source of funds for the purchase of the property was not illicit as claimed by the prosecution. On pages 12, 13 and 26 of the judgment of the highest court, this particular property on 17A McDonald Street, Ikoyi, was specifically referred to and the court upheld the no-case submission of Dr. Saraki and therefore ruled in his favour.
"We know that any action which tends to mislead the court amounts to misrepresentation and it is a good ground for us to get the court to throw away the order it issued today. We are sure the order will be reversed.
"We, therefore call on all the friends, associates and supporters of Dr. Saraki to remain calm because we know this action will not stand when the court gets to hear the side of the former Senate President," he stated.