A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Friday, struck out a forfeiture application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for the sum of $8, 435,789.84 and N9,185, 327, 362, allegedly linked to the former first lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan and six others.
The funds were said to be lodged in Skye Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Stabic-IBTC and First Bank Plc. Respondents in the suit are Mrs. Jonathan, Globus Integrated Service Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, AM-PM Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited, Magel Resort Limited and Esther Oba.
The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, struck out the application, for being an abuse of court processes. The court had earlier granted an exparte application by the EFCC, for temporary forfeiture of the said amount, after it ordered the Commission to file an affidavit showing that the sums were not subject of litigation before another court. Striking out the suit, Justice Olatoregun stated that the anti-graft agency had not shown enough evidence to indicate that the matter before her court was not subject to litigation before any other court. The judge also berated EFCC for being in the habit of carrying out media trial against suspects rather than do justice to accused persons and the society. She also criticised EFCC’s act of forum shopping, running from one court to another, in order to denigrate and malign suspects without putting its acts together.
The judge held that it was an abuse of court process to file similar cases such as the one before her in different divisions of the Federal High Court as the EFCC did before Justice Binta Nyako, herself and Justice Tsoho of Abuja and Lagos Divisions of the same Federal High Court. The court held that fighting corruption does not equate to not respecting citizens’ rights. She consequently, struck out the EFCC’s application for being an abuse of court process.
Before the court’s ruling, Mrs. Jonathan, through her lawyers, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe and Mr. Mike Ozekhome, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, had urged the court to dismiss the EFCC’s application against their clients, for being abuse of court processes. At one of the hearings of the matter, the two senior lawyers told the court that the EFCC had filed similar application before a Federal High Court, Abuja, which was yet to be determined, before the application on the same matter was filed before the present court. However, the EFCC through its lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo had told the court that his employer, EFCC, had filed a notice of discontinuation of the case before Justice Binta Nyako.