EFCC appeals as court strikes out suit on seizure of properties, N400m linked to Gov Bello

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed an appeal, challenging Wednesday’s ruling of the Federal High Court, Lagos which struck out its suit seeking the forfeiture of 14 properties and N400m linked to the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, citing his immunity from prosecution under the 1999 Constitution.

In the ruling, Justice Nicholas Oweibo struck out the suit on the ground that Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution prevents the institution of any criminal or civil case against a sitting governor or the president. In its notice of appeal, filed by Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), the EFCC submitted that Justice Oweibo erred in law when he struck out the suit as the immunity conferred on the respondent against any civil or criminal proceedings during his incumbency as a Governor of Kogi State does not extend to properties reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime traced to him.

The EFCC also submitted that the court erred and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it refused to bind itself with the decision of the Court of Appeal in EFCC V Fayose (2018) LPELR 44131 CA and the decision of the Supreme Court in Fawehinmi V IGP (2002)7 NWLR (PT767)606, on the proper interpretation of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution. The trial court was also said to have erred in law when it struck out a preservation order of properties reasonably suspected to have been derived from proceeds of unlawful activities notwithstanding its findings that Gov. Yahaya Bello failed to show the genuine origin of funds used to acquire the properties under the preservation order.

On February 22, Justice Oweibo granted an interim forfeiture of the properties located in Lagos, Abuja, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and also ordered the preservation of the sum of N400 million recovered from one Aminu Falala, which “is reasonably suspected to have been derived from the unlawful activity and intended to be used for the acquisition of Plot No. 1224 Bishop Oluwole Street, Victoria Island Lagos”. In moving the application which led to the interim forfeiture order, Oyedepo had stated that the properties, including “Hotel Apartment Community, Burj Khalifa lying, being and situate at, Plot 160 Municipality NO 345-7562, Sky View Building No 1, Property No 401, Floor 4, Dubai U.A.E”, were reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity.

In his ruling, Justice Oweibo had granted the application and also directed the Commission to publish the interim order within 14 days in any national newspaper before adjourning to March 28, 2023.

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