Conflicting Rulings over Seizure of Sylva’s Houses

05 Jan 2013

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Timipriye Sylva

By Tobi Soniyi                   

Two high courts, the Abuja High Court and a Federal High Court also in Abuja are on collision course over the seizure of houses belonging to former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipriye Sylva.

Last Thursday the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said it secured a Federal High Court order on December 21 empowering it to take possession of Sylva's houses.

Although EFCC claimed it got the order in December, it however did not make it public until last Thursday.

However, on Sunday December 30th, 2012, Sylva issued a statement wherein he claimed to have an order of an Abuja High Court barring EFCC from taking over his houses.

The embattled governor said that Justice M.M. Kolo of an Abuja High Court issued the order in his favour on 27 December 2012 while ruling on a motion filed by him.

Yesterday at the resumed hearing of the case before Justice Kolo at an Abuja High Court, the judge refused to lift the order he granted in favour of Sylva even when EFCC applied to him to do so.

Instead he chose to remit Sylva's case to the Chief Judge of the court because yesterday was his last sitting day as a vacation judge.

Sylva's counsel, Benson Ibezim, had earlier told the court that both the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation AGF just served him their processes in court and that he would need time to respond to them.
Counsel to the AGF, B.A Saheed told the court that he has filed an objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.

Counsel to the EFCC, O.O Otemu submitted that pending the response of the applicant, the court should allow for an oral argument on the jurisdiction of the court.

He further submitted that such would save the judiciary from mockery because of the two conflicting orders.

Otemu also told the court that Justice A.R Mohammed of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on December 21 granted the commission an order of seizure and that the order was yet to be vacated.

He argued that it was an abuse of court process for the applicant to have approached the high court during the pendency of a Federal High Court order.

Counsel to Sylva however told the court that the Federal High Court order was not served on his client and hence the need to approach the court for a restraining order.

Otemu however responded that the December 21 order was pasted on all the affected properties and that it was also served on Sylva himself adding that the high court should have been informed of the pending order before the ex parte order was granted.

He therefore urged the court to vacate its December 27 order restraining the EFCC as the houses in question had already been seized by the anti-graft agency.

Justice Kolo held that he could not vacate the order and that the court was not aware of a pending order of the federal high court before granting the ex parte order.

He further said that he could not sit over the matter any longer because he was a vacation judge and that Friday was his last sitting day, as he would proceed on vacation today.
Justice Kolo stated that he would remit the case file back to the Chief Judge of the High Court to re assign it to another judge with an order of accelerated hearing due to the nature of the case.

Sylva had on 24 December 2012 filed a suit at the court for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights.

The EFCC had on Thursday taken possession of several houses allegedly belonging to Sylva.

Hearing in the suit before the Federal High Court comes up on January 10.
Sylva is being prosecuted at a Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged misappropriation of N6.46 billion state funds when he was governor of the state.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Tags: Nigeria, Featured, News, Timipriye Sylva

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