THE Apex court has upheld the order of interim forfeiture made by a federal high court in Lagos in connection to the $8.4 million reportedly traced to Patience Jonathan, a former first lady.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed an ex – parte with the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking to forfeit the sum of $8.4 million and other sums in various bank accounts linked to the wife of the former president.
In its judgement on Friday, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Dattijo Muhammad unanimously ruled that the appeal filed by the wife of the former president, challenging the interim forfeiture, was without merit.
The court also rejected her prayer to strike down the provisions of Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act and Other Fraud-Related Offences Act, which was relied on by the Federal High Court to issue the order of interim forfeiture.
And directed the former first lady to go before the Federal High court to explain why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
In upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal in Lagos, which had affirmed the Federal High Court’s interim order, Justice Kumai Aka’ahs, in the lead judgment of the apex court said, “I do not find any reason to interfere with the decision of the lower court”.
“Appellant is to go back to the trial court to show cause why the interim order should not be made permanent,” he added.
The lead judgment was read on behalf of Justice Aka’ahs by Justice Ejembi Eko, who is also a member of the panel.
In April 2018, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Lagos, granted EFCC the ex parte order.
She also ordered the EFCC to publish the court’s order in any major national newspaper to enable the respondents or anyone interested in the funds to appear before the court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture of the said funds should not be made in favour of the federal government
Patience had filed an appeal before the court of appeal to challenge the competence of the ex parte application filed by the EFCC to request the order of interim forfeiture.
She also challenged the validity of the order made by the trial court and the constitutionality of Section 17 of Advance Fee Fraud and Act.
But the court dismissed her appeal, prompting her to approach the apex court.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.