Alleged $5.78m, N2.4bn fraud: Suit against Patience Jonathan fixed for Oct 7

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A Lagos Federal High Court, today, fixed October 7, for hearing of an application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking an  order for final forfeiture of the sum of $5.78 million and N2.4 billion, linked to the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.

The presiding judge, Tijjani Garuba Ringim, fixed the date after hearing the submissions of the counsel to the parties in the matter.

EFCC had filed the application for forfeiture sometimes in 2017 before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, now retired.

The defendants in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/640/2017, were; Dame Patience Jonathan and a firm, LA Wari Furniture and Bathes.

The monies were said to have been warehoused by Skye Bank Plc and Ecobank Plc respectively.

Justice Olatoregun on April 26, 2017, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the monies, sequel to an ex-parte application filed and moved by the EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo.

The judge’s order was affirmed by both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
However, midway to the conclusion of hearing on the final forfeiture of the said sums, Justice Olatoregun retired from the Bench in 2019.

The development compelled 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 before he was transfered to the  Benin division of the court.

At the resumed hearing of the matter today, EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, told Justice Ringim how far the matter had gone.

Oyedepo said: “This matter is a suit instituted before your learned brother, Justice Olatoregun now retired, where we prayed for the final forfeiture of the sum of $5,781,173.55, warehoused in Skye Bank Plc and N2,421,953,502.78, property of LA Wari Furniture and Bathes in Ecobank Plc.

An interim order was granted on April 24, 2017, upon which appeal was initiated  up to Supreme Court and an application for its final forfeiture was moved but the trial judge didn’t deliver the judgment before retiring.

“It was upon that fact that the file was transferred to the registry where it was reassigned to the former judge and subsequently your Lordship”.

Counsel to Mrs Jonathan, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe and Gboyega Oyewole, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) also informed the judge that the case was adjourned for mention because it was coming up for the first time before him. While counsel to the companies, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) also urged the court to adjourn the case on the premise that it was starting afresh and that he intended to file an application challenging the constitutionality of the entire proceedings.

Ozekhome (SAN), prayed the court to grant a long adjournment to enable him file the application that the case is supposed to start afresh.

Oyedepo opposed the application, praying the court not to grant it, because, according to him, there is a procedure enshrined in section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offences Act, which the EFCC had compiled with except the last step which is a motion for final forfeiture.

He urged the judge to look at the proceedings of February 17, 2021 where the former judge adjourned the hearing of the motion for final forfeiture till April 13, which could not hold because of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) strike.

He urged the Judge that should the court be inclined to grant an adjournment, it should be for the motion for final forfeiture.

In his ruling, Justice Ringim declared that a proceeding of this nature is a special one and cannot be truncated by any application.

He further said that : “I say in my humble opinion that 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 application 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”.

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