By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court on Friday in Abuja, affirmed the order of a Federal High Court in Lagos, which directed the federal government to temporarily seize $8.4 million linked to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
The apex court in a unanimous judgment delivered yesterday, held that it had no reason to interfere with the decision of the lower court.
The Court of Appeal in Lagos, had last year upheld the decision of a Federal High Court in Lagos, which granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) right to temporary take possession of the said funds suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities pending the conclusion of investigation.
Displeased with the decision of the appellate court, Mrs. Jonathan had approached the apex court to upturn the decision of the lower courts.
In dismissing her appeal, the five-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad, however, directed the former First Lady to return to the Federal High Court and show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government of Nigeria.
The apex court in its lead Judgment delivered by Justice Kumai Aka’ahs held that, “Appellant is to go back to the trial court (the Federal High Court) to show cause why the interim order should not be made permanent.”
In addition, the Supreme Court refused the prayer of the appellant requesting the striking down of the provisions of Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act (AFFA) and other Fraud related offences Act, which was relied on by the Federal High Court to issue the order of interim forfeiture.
Other members of the five-man panel of Justices include Justice Ejembi Eko, who read the lead Judgment on behalf of Justices Aka’ahs, John Okoro and Sidi Bage.
The Federal High Court in Lagos had last year granted an ex parte application by the EFCC which sought the forfeiture of the $8,435,788.84 and other various sums in various bank accounts linked to the former first lady.
The EFCC had anchored its application on Section 17 of AFFA and urged the court to grant an order of interim forfeiture of the funds, which they said were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
Patience Jonathan and others, including some organisations, were joined in the said ex parte application as respondents.
In granting the ex parte application, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on April 20, 2018, 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 of Nigeria.
However, Mrs. Jonathan approached the Court of Appeal to challenge the competence of the ex parte application filed by the EFCC to request the order of interim forfeiture.
In the appeal, she also challenged the validity of the order made by the trial court and the constitutionality of section 17 of AFFA.
However, the Court of Appeal in Lagos dismissed her appeal, prompting her to approach the Supreme Court to rule in her favour.