The Supreme Court has upheld the Federal Government’s interim seizure of N2. 4 billion linked to former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
This came exactly one week after the Apex Court dismissed an appeal filed by former First Lady seeking to set aside temporary forfeiture of about $8.4 million traced to her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) .
Mrs Jonathan had prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the forfeiture order granted by the Federal High Court in Lagos in April 2018, but the Apex Court last week upheld decision of the Court of Appeal in Lagos, which affirmed the Federal High Court’s interim order.
Also, yesterday, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court rejected the appeal by Lawari Furniture on the grounds that it lacked merit.
The over N2.4 billion was said to be held in bank accounts owned by Lawari Furniture and Bath Limited, an entity in which Mrs. Jonathan allegedly has interest.
In the lead judgment written by Justice Amiru Sanusi but read by Justice Sidi Bage, the Supreme Court upheld the order of interim forfeiture made by a High Court in Lagos on April 26, 2017, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, Lagos, in a judgment given on January 12, 2018.
The court rejected the argument by the appellant, who had faulted the interim order of forfeiture obtained by the EFCC via an ex-parte motion, and prayed that it be set aside.
It also rejected the appellant’s prayer to void Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act and other Fraud-related Offences Act, on which the High Court relied on in issuing the order of interim forfeiture.
The court, in the lead judgment, noted that it rarely interfered in the concurrent findings of the two lower courts, except where there are exceptional circumstances and the findings perverse.
It noted that, in the instant case, no such exceptional circumstances existed.
In his supporting judgment, a member of the panel, Justice Ejembi Eko, observed that the substance of this appeal was similar to the onedecided by the court on March 8 this year relating to the interim forfeiture of $8.4m.
Justice Eko said both appeals ought not to be split and assigned to different panels to avoid the risk of issuing conflicting judgments.
He found nothing wrong with the provision of Section 17 of the Money Laundering Act which, he noted, was the same as the provision in Section 29 of EFCC Act.
Other members of the panel, Justices Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Mary Peter Odili and Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, agreed with the lead judgment.
Justice Mojisola Olaterogun had in 2017 ordered the interim forfeiture of the money and held that anyone interested in it should appear before the court to show cause why it should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the appellant approached the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, seeking to upturn the ruling of the lower court.
However, ruling on the appeal on January 12, 2018, the appellate court, in a lead judgement read by Justice Mojeed Owoade, rather upheld the interim forfeiture order.
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