A Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice T.G Ringim has fixed the hearing of a motion seeking the final forfeiture of the $5.78m and N2.4bn linked to former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan for October 7 this year.
It would be recalled that Justice Mojisola Olatoregun had on April 26, 2017, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds sequel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) argued that the money was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of fraud.
Apart from the $5.78 million traced to the former First Lady’s personal account, the judge also froze some accounts linked to her, including an Ecobank account with a balance of N2.4bn opened in the name of one La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited.
Since the court judgment, Mrs Jonathan, through her lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), on behalf of La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited, has opposed an order for the final forfeiture of the money.
The two defendants’ counsels subsequently proceeded to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the order on temporary forfeiture order and recover the funds. However, the Supreme Court refused their pleas and upheld the order of the lower court.
But then, before the conclusion of the hearing on the final forfeiture on the said sums, Justice Olatoregun retired from the Bench in 2019, thereby compelling the Chief Judge of the court to re-assign the matter to Justice Chuka Obiozor for hearing.
However, Justice Obiozor could not hear the case as he was transferred to Benin.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, told Justice Ringim the state of the suit even as the defence counsel informed the judge that the case was adjourned for mention because it was coming up for the first time before him.
Barrister Ozekhome, counsel to the company, urged the court to adjourn the case on the grounds that it was starting afresh and expressed his intention to file an application challenging the constitutionality of the entire proceedings. He urged the court to grant a long adjournment to enable him to file the said application.
In his response, the anti-graft agency’s counsel opposed the application and prayed the court not to grant same on the grounds that there was 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.
After hearing both counsels, Justice Ringim held that a proceeding of this nature was a special one and could not be truncated by any application.
He explained: “In my humble opinion, there is a procedure to follow in this type of application, which cannot be truncated. 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.”
Subsequently, the judge adjourned the matter till October 7, 2021, for hearing.