A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed April 20, 2023 to rule on an application filed by Kogi State seeking to vacate an interim order of the court freezing 14 properties linked to the state governor.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo fixed the date on Tuesday after taking submissions from the Kogi State Government’s counsel, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, and the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN.
On February 22, the court had granted the interim forfeiture order following an ex parte motion to confiscate 14 properties and firms in Lagos, Abuja, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as N400m, recovered from one Aminu Falala.
When the matter came up on Tuesday, the counsel to Kogi State, told the court that he had an application dated March 9, 2023 seeking to vacate the order of the court made on February 22.
Mohammed, while moving the application, stated that about the third quarter of 2021, EFCC approached the court to freeze Kogi State’s N20bn salary bailout loan that was allegedly hidden in Sterling Bank.
He said that when the Kogi State Government called Sterling Bank, the bank denied that such account existed, and that they challenged the freezing order made by Justice Tijjani Ringim insisting the order was obtained illegally.
Mohammed further stated that EFCC, instead of apologising, sent a press release that the money had been returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
According to him, the Kogi State Government approached the state High Court, presided over by the present Chief judge, Justice Josiah Majebi, who granted an order restraining the EFCC from having anything to do with Kogi State until the substantive matter was determined.
He argued that the order of the Kogi State High Court restraining EFCC from taking any step against the state government was still subsisting.
“The EFCC in flagrant disregard of the said Order of the Kogi State High Court and her pending appeal at the Court of Appeal Abuja Judicial Division, arrested one Ali Bello, Nephew of the Applicant herein, who is an associate of the Kogi State Government on the 29th of November, 2022.
“That the EFCC in flagrant disobedience of the subsisting Order of the High Court of Kogi State, interrogated the said Alli Bello and coerced him to oblige them information pertaining to most of the properties listed in the Order of this Honourable Court made on the 22nd of February, 2023.
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“That the said Ali Bello aggrieved by his illegal arrest and forced interrogation, filed a fundamental rights enforcement application at the High Court of Kogi State, Lokoja Judicial Division agafnst the EFCC in Suit No: HCL/696″/2022: Ali Bello V. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) & Anor.
“That the High Court of Kogi State in a Judgement delivered on the 12th of January, 2023 granted all the reliefs sought by the Applicant and made an Order declaring his arrest, detention and interrogation illegal and unconstitutional and further order of perpetual injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, their agents, servants, privies or howsoever called from further arrest, detention, harassment and intimidation of the said Ali Bello, nephew of the Applicant herein.
“That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in continuous disobedience of the extant Orders of Court barring it from inviting or doing anything with respect to the affairs of the Kogi State Government and its officials, brought the instant application for preservation order of properties they alleged are reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity stemming from the purported misappropriation of funds belong to Kogi State Government.
“That the Application filed by the EFCC on the 20″ of February, 2023 upon which this Honourable Court made the order dated 22 February, 2023, sought to be vacated herein, is a continuous disobedience of subsisting Orders of Courts of coordinate jurisdiction, that had restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from doing anything with respect to the affairs of the Applicant including the employees, appointees or associates of Kogi State Government,” he said.
Mohammed argued that in a federation, the EFCC lacked the power to dictate to a state how it spends money.
Counsel to the EFCC, Oyedepo, in his response, said that the applicant had brought nothing before the court to convince the court to vacate the order.
He urged the court to dismiss the application of the applicant seeking to vacate the order earlier made by the court.
After listening to both parties, Justice Oweibo fixed April 20 for his ruling.