Court Sets Aside Forfeiture of Patience Jonathan’s U.S.$5.8 Million, N3.5 Billion to FG

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Lagos/Abuja — Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday set aside an order of forfeiture of $5.8million, N3.5 billion and 16 separate bank accounts belonging to the wife of former president, Dame Patience Jonathan, her firms and foundation.

In her ruling on an application brought by Mrs. Jonathan, the judge said the interim 90 days of forfeiture had elapsed without the court being convinced by the arguments of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for extension.

Specifically, the judge said the order, which was granted on May 30, expired in August and the commission did not file any criminal charge against the owners of the bank accounts which it claimed the source of money found in them was under investigation.

Justice Nyako also ruled that the application filed by the EFCC seeking to extend the expired forfeiture order was like “putting a dead baby on oxygen.”

The judge agreed with counsel to Mrs. Jonathan, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), that the processes filed by EFCC in Lagos division of the Federal High Court on same matter and subject, amounted to forum shopping.

Mrs. Jonathan had argued in her application that the orders of interim forfeiture including a subsequent one issued on October 10 had become spent and cannot be extended, as the original order was obtained by an improper use of court process by the EFCC.

The court also agreed with her deposition that the Incorporated Trustees of Ariwabai Aruera Reachout Foundation, Pluto Property and Investment Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Globus Integrated Services, Aruera Reachout Foundation, Pagmat Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Finhley Top Homes Limited , Women for Change Initiative Nigeria, Mabel Resort Limited and AM PM Global Network Limited, and Mrs. Jonathan were the owners of the sums.

But a Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday ordered that two penthouse structures linked to the former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, be temporary forfeited to the Federal Government.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun directed that the properties in Banana Island, Ikoyi, and Admiralty Estate also in Ikoyi, Lagos, be forfeited to the government, pending the conclusion of the investigation.

The judge made the order while granting an ex-parte application for interim forfeiture of the properties filed and argued by the EFCC, through its counsel, Anslem Ozioko.

The application has Diezani Alison-Madueke, Donald Amagbo, Schillenburg LLC and Sequoyah Property Limited as respondents.

EFCC also asked the court for an order prohibiting any disposal, conveyance, mortgage, lease, sale or alienation or otherwise of the said assets/properties, as they were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.

The anti-graft agency asked for an order authorizing it to appoint a competent person(s)/firms to manage the said two properties.

The EFCC, in affidavit deposed to by one of its investigators, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated that during investigation into the ownership of the two properties, one Mr. Fadi Basbous, volunteered extra-judicial statement, wherein he stated that the properties were sold at $3.570 million and $1.194 million and owned by Sequoyah Properties Limited and Schillenburg LLC.

The deponent also stated that the payment for the Penthouse 22, Block B, 8, Gerrard road, Ikoyi, and Penthouse 21, Building 5, Block C, 11 floor, Plot1, Zone N, FGN layout, Banana Island, Ikoyi, were made by Mrs. Angela Jide-Jones, and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited.

The judge, however, refused to grant the order authorising the anti-graft agency to appoint a competent person(s) or firm to manage the said two properties and adjourned to December 15.

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