Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered an interim forfeiture of two houses allegedly belonging to former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
The properties are situated at Plot No. 1960, Cadastral Zone A05, Maitama District, and Plot No. 1350, Cadastral Zone A00, both in Abuja.
Justice Dimgba granted the order while ruling on an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The judge in dismissing Mrs. Jonathanâ€™s objection to the application for lacking in merit, however held that the forfeiture order last for only 45 days within which the anti-graft agency must conclude its investigations.
In addition, Dimgba ruled that the commission must conclude its investigations and charge those culpable in respect of the said properties.
He, however, stated that the anti-graft agency, if it so wishes, can file an application for the extension of the life span of the order before the expiration of the first 45 days.
The court in addition held that officials of the commission must ensure the presence of the respondents, if they must access the said properties while the interim forfeiture order last.
Dimgba consequently, ordered that an inventory of fixtures in the properties be taken and the report submitted to the court.
The EFCC had on October 20, 2017, approached the court for an ex-parte order seeking the temporary forfeiture of the properties at plot No. 1758, Cadastral Zone, B06 Mabushi and Plot No.1350, Cadastral Zone, A00 Central Business District, Abuja, linked to the former first lady to the federal government.
The EFCC also said the application was predicated on the fact that the properties are subject matter of investigation, enquiry and examination.
However, few days before the ex-parte application was to be heard, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), counsel to Mrs. Jonathan, brought an application seeking to stop the hearing of the ex-parte on the grounds that the properties were subject matter of another suit filed by EFCC before same Federal High Court in Abuja.
Ozekhome urged the court to condemn the action of the federal government whose agent demolished part of the property while the matter was pending in court.
He prayed the court not to grant the EFCC prayer for forfeiture of the said properties because they belong to a separate entity, the Aurora Foundation.
According to Ozekhome, the Foundation has not breach any law, adding that it was illogical for the EFCC to state that the Foundation has not done any contract to have raised funds for the construction of the structure, adding that it does not have to be involved in contracting job to raise money.
He said though the EFCC motion was filed Â ex-parte, the commission made Mrs. Jonathan to be aware of it, giving rise to a situation where itâ€™s now improper and unfair â€˜to shave her hair in her absence.â€™.
But EFCC lawyer, Benjamin Mangi, denied that the commission took part in the demolition of part of the building.
He said also the suit was different from the one determined by Justice John Tsoho of the same court.
Besides, the lawyer further submitted that EFCC has the power to investigate without any prompting from anybody.
He emphasised that the commissionâ€™s application was filed ex-parte, and prayed the court to refuse Mrs. Jonathanâ€™s application and to grant the prayer of the commission for forfeiture of the two properties pending their investigations.