A Federal High Court in Lagos has vacated an interim forfeiture order made against properties linked to Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi State.
The court had in February, granted the interim forfeiture order of 14 properties following an ex parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The properties were said to be located in Lagos, Abuja, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Following the order, Nicholas Oweibo, the presiding judge, directed the commission to make publications in two national dailies for any interested party to show cause why a final forfeiture order should not be made.
But Bello filed an application seeking to vacate the interim forfeiture order.
He premised his application on the grounds that the properties listed were not proceeds of an unlawful act, as they were acquired long before he was elected governor.
The governor further stated that section 308 of the constitution grants him immunity from being prosecuted for civil or criminal suits.
Also, he disputed the legitimacy of the EFCC’s lawsuit, arguing that, it disobeyed an existing state high court decision.
He said the ruling had prevented the EFCC from looking into any Kogi state government accounts while the motion on notice was being decided.
On the issue of jurisdiction, the governor stated that the properties listed were in Abuja, Kogi, and UAE, while the personality involved is based in Lokoja.
He averred that the suit ought to have been instituted either in Abuja or in Kogi state.
Responding, Rotimi Oyedepo, EFCC counsel, argued that the applicant’s averments were not sufficient enough to vacate the interim order of forfeiture.
He maintained that, in contrast to the applicant’s claims, the EFCC had not been prevented from carrying out its constitutional obligations by the Kogi state high court or any other court in Nigeria.
Oyedepo also asked the court to order the forfeiture of N400 million, which he said was also reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activities.
But in his ruling on Wednesday, Oweibo held that, given section 308 of the constitution, which provides immunity to a serving governor from any civil or criminal prosecution, the court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter.
The court consequently, struck out the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
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