Friday, 20 October 2017

Patience Jonathan stalls EFCC’s plan to confiscate her Abuja properties

PLAN by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to obtain an ex-parte interim forfeiture order in respect of two Abuja properties allegedly owned by former First Lady, Patience Jonathan suffered a setback yesterday.

Lawyers to Mrs. Jonathan prevented Justice Nmandi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja from hearing the ex-parte motion filed by the EFCC seeking the interim order of forfeiture in relation to the properties located at Plot No. 1960, Cadastral Zone A05, Maitama District and Plot No. 1350, Cadastral Zone A00, in Abuja.

The court had scheduled hearing of the motion for yesterday. But lawyers to Mrs. Jonathan got wind of the motion before yesterday and promptly filed an application, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the EFCC’s motion.

At the mention of the case yesterday, EFCC’s lawyer Best Ojukwu announced his appearance and made move to introduce his motion when Mrs. Jonathan’s lawyers, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who ordinarily should not have been heard (being proceedings in respect of an ex-parte motion) informed the court about their motion challenging the court’s power to hear the EFCC’s motion.

An argument later ensued between lawyers on both sides on whether or not the proceedings for yesterday could be conducted in view of the motion by Mrs. Jonathan.

Justice Dimgba later intervened and adjourned to November 11 for the hearing of both motions.

The courtroom was packed full with people, mostly women and their children who came to court to support Mrs. Jonathan’s position.

The EFCC, in its motion, said the properties is being held in the name of Ariwabai Aruera Reachout Foundation, which Mrs. Jonathan was said to be one of its “trustees”.

Beyond the prayer for an order for interim forfeiture of the properties, the EFCC also prayed for “an order stopping any disposal, conveyance, mortgage, lease, sale or alienation or otherwise of the property/asset described in the schedule attached herein.”

It equally  sought “an order authorising the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to appoint a competent person(s)/firm to manage the asset/property listed in the schedule herein, temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government pending the conclusion of investigation.”

The EFCC hinged its motion on three grounds, to the effect that: “The assets, property in respect of which the relief is sought are subject matter of investigation, enquiry and examination by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”

In her motion, Mrs. Jonathan queried the legitimacy of the motion filed by the EFCC and argued that it was intended to frustrate the outcome of a fundamental rights enforcement suit she filed, but which is pending before another judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Mrs. Jonathan sought “an order of this court striking out the respondent’s ex parte originating summons dated September 20, 2017, filed at the registry of this honourable court on the same date on the ground that this honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the said application”.

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