The Federal High Court in Lagos has set October 7, 2021, as the date for the hearing of a motion seeking the definitive forfeiture of the $5.78 million and N2.4 billion attributed to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience.
The cash were temporarily forfeited by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on April 26, 2017, after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission argued that the money was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of fraud.
The judge froze a number of accounts linked to Patience, including an Ecobank account with a balance of N2.4 billion opened in the name of one La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited, in addition to her personal account with $5.78 million.
Patience, through her lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), on behalf of La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited, fought efforts to get an order for the money’s permanent forfeiture.
The two lawyers then appealed to the Supreme Court, requesting that the temporary forfeiture order be overturned and the cash be returned, but the Supreme Court maintained the lower court’s decision.
Justice Olatoregun, however, departed from the bench in 2019 midway through the hearing on the final forfeiture of the stated sums.
The Chief Judge of the court was forced to reassign the case to Justice Chuka Obiozor for hearing, but he was unable to do so before being sent to Benin.
The EFCC’s attorney, Rotimi Oyedepo, told Justice Ringim how far the case had progressed, while Patience’s counsel informed the judge that the case had been adjourned for mention because it was before him for the first time.
On the other hand, the firms’ attorney sought the court to defer the case, claiming that it was reopening and that he intended to submit an application contesting the proceedings’ legitimacy.
He also asked the court for an extended adjournment so that he could file the application. In response, Oyedepo contested the application and asked the court not to grant it, claiming that the EFCC had followed the procedure outlined in Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, with the exception of the final stage, which was a motion for final forfeiture.
Justice Ringim ruled on the bench that a proceeding of this sort was unique and could not be shortened by any application.
“In my humble judgment, in this type of application, there is a procedure to follow that cannot be truncated,” he stated. Because an application has yet to be submitted, the court cannot adjourn the case.
“However, the court will not dismiss the application because of the nature of the application, as suggested by the second respondent. This court will adjourn in order to consider the ongoing application for ultimate forfeiture.
“As a result, the second respondent is hereby instructed to file the application, if any, within 14 days of the date of this decision, and the plaintiff will have one week to respond. The motion for final forfeiture will be heard concurrently.”
The case was further adjourned by Justice Ringim until October 7, 2021.
by Olusanya Olutayo