Justice T.G Ringim of the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed October 7, 2021, for the hearing of a motion seeking the final forfeiture of the $5.78m and N2.4bn linked to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun had on April 26, 2017, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission argued that the money was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of fraud.
Apart from Patience’s personal account with $5.78m, the judge also froze a number of accounts linked with her including an Ecobank account with a balance of N2.4bn opened in the name of one La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited.
But efforts to secure an order for the permanent forfeiture of the money were opposed by Patience, through her lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), on behalf of La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited.
The two lawyers subsequently went on appeal and Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the temporary forfeiture order and recover the funds but the Supreme Court upheld the order of the lower court.
However, midway to the conclusion of the hearing on the final forfeiture on 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 but he could not hear the case before he was transferred to Benin.
At the resumed proceedings on Monday, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, told Justice Ringim how far the matter had gone while Patience’s counsel informed the judge that the case was adjourned for mention because it was coming up for the first time before him.
The companies’ counsel on his part urged the court to adjourn the case on the grounds that it was starting afresh and that he intended to file an application challenging the constitutionality of the entire proceedings.
He further urged the court to grant a long adjournment to enable him to file the said application.
Responding, Oyedepo opposed the application and prayed the court not to grant same on the grounds that there was a procedure enshrined in Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, which the EFCC had complied with except the last step, which was a motion for final forfeiture.
In a bench ruling, Justice Ringim held that a proceeding of this nature was a special one and could not be truncated by any application.
He said, “In my humble opinion, 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 motion 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.”
Justice Ringim further adjourned the matter till October 7, 2021.