A Federal High Court, Lagos Thursday called for oral evidences in a suit by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking final forfeiture of about $8.4 million and N7.4 billion found in some accounts linked to former First Lady Patience Jonathan.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun in a judgment on the motion for final forfeiture of the sums, held that there were conflicting affidavit evidences, which can be best resolved if respective parties are called upon to give oral evidence.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the EFCC had secured an interim order for forefeture of the sums on April 20, 2018, before Olatoregun, following a motion exparte.
It joined as respondents: Patience Jonathan, Globus Integrated Services Ltd, Finchley Top Homes Ltd., Am-Pm Global Network Ltd, Pagmat Oil and Gas Ltd, Magel Resort Ltd and Esther Oba.
On October 29, 2018, EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, had moved his motion for final forfeiture of the sums, urging that same be finally forfeited to the federal government.
Meanwhile, the defence counsel, Messrs Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), and Mr Ige Asemudara had respectively moved their processes in opposition to the motion for final forfeiture.
On January 15, the court had admitted electronic evidences presented by respondent counsel, which depicted video exhibits showing various business outfits of the third and sixth respondents
The court had then adjourned for judgment.
Delivering judgment on Thursday, the judge first dismissed an application by the counsel to the respondents, seeking to set aside the interim forfeiture orders made on April 20, 2018.
The court held that it was satisfied that the requirement for the grant of the interim orders was met by the EFCC, adding that it was clear that at the time the interim order was made, there was no pending suit elsewhere.
Meanwhile, giving its ratio on the motion for final forfeiture, the court held that it finds the affidavit evidences conflicting, adding that same can only be resolved if the parties concerned are called upon to give oral evidences.
The court held :
“The applicant relied on two grounds (1) That the court has the statutory power under section 17, to grant the reliefs sought and (2) That the monies are suspected to be proceeds of an unlawful activity or unlawful activities, diverted from the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The court asked if having regards to the provisions of sections 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, as well as the available facts before the court, the applicant has made out a case for final forfeiture of the sums.
The judge noted the various processes filed by parties to the suit which include, affidavits, counter affidavits, further affidavits, reply affidavits written addresses, as well as exhibits .
The court then held :
“I have examined the issues raised on both sides and I came to the conclusion after exhaustively going through the affidavits filed by parties, and I found the affidavits conflicting on material facts.
“I believe in the circumstance that the court cannot rely on its own opinion alone; the conflict must only be determined or resolved by the evidences of parties themselves, particularly as it relates to the source of the funds.
“I believe parties should be heard and cross examined on this issue.
“Parties are accordingly called upon to give oral testimonies in support of the case presented.”
After the court’s pronouncement, it adjourned the case until March 14 and 15. (NAN)