A Court of Appeal in Lagos on Monday fixed July 5 to hear an application seeking final forfeiture of former first lady, Patience Jonathan’s $5.8 million to the Federal Government.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had earlier today adjourned to September 20, a suit seeking final forfeiture to the Federal Government, of the sum of $5.8 million belonging to former first lady.
The matter was adjourned based on the grounds that an application seeking for stay of proceedings had been filed before the appeal court.
“I believe that it will be in the interest of justice that parties vent their views at the Court of Appeal,” said Mrs. Olatoregun.
The court had on April 26 issued an interim order for forfeiture of the sum of $5.8 million belonging to Mrs. Jonathan to the Federal Government.
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 had 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.
Mike Ozekhome, a senior lawyer and counsel to the second respondent, had at the resumed hearing today urged the court to wash its hands off the matter as records of proceedings have been duly transferred to the Appeal Court.
According to him, “My attitude would have been that going by order 4 rules 10 and 11 of the Court of Appeal rules, this court ceases to have further jurisdiction to even entertain the motions of today.”
“The Appeal Court has said that it will amount to embarking on illegal judicial voyage since the appeal has already been entered in the appeal court,” said Mr. Ozokhome.
While stressing on the need for the lower court to hands off the matter, Mr. Ozokhome stated that “the entire proceedings of today will amount to illegality” as it was the Appellate court that will decide whether the application filed before it was right or wrong.
“There is an application pending before the court of appeal for stay of proceedings. It borders on judicial impertinence and an affront to the authority of the court of appeal” Mr. Ozokhome asserted.
Mr. Ozokhome further informed the court that the application of stay from the decision of this court have been entered by the court of appeal and fixed for hearing on the 5th of July 2017.
Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel for the prosecution, urged the court to hear the applications before it as it has the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
“There is no order staying proceedings on this matter,” said Mr. Oyedepo.
While observing that the order of stay of proceedings have been served on the prosecution and the court, Mrs. Olatoregun adjourned the matter pending the hearing of the application filed before the appeal court.
The EFCC had earlier filed a motion seeking an order for interim forfeiture of the said $5.8 million dollars 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 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.
The Commission averred in an affidavit 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 that 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 the 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 that between Feb. 8, 2013 and Jan. 30, 2015, about $6.7 million suspected to be proceeds of crime were deposited into the account.
According to the Commission, Mrs. 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 used by Mrs. 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.