Court Orders Stay of Action over Ex-Zamfara Gov’s Assets

Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday ordered all parties in the suit filed by former Zamfara State Governor AbdulAziz Yari, challenging the seizure of his assets by the federal government to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the main suit.

Justice Maha, in a short ruling in a fundamental right suit filed by Yari on Monday ordered the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to appear before the court on August 30 and show cause why the ex governor’s request to restrain them from taking any action against his property should not be granted.

Yari had in a motion exparte marked FHC/ABJ/CS/948/2019, prayed the court to restrain the government from freezing his bank accounts or seizing any of his properties pending the hearing and determination of his suit challenging the action of the government.

Respondents in the suit are the AGF and EFCC.

But the court instead of granting the restraining order held that the respondents be served with the court processes within 48 hours and adjourned further proceedings to August 30.

At the resumed hearing, counsel to EFCC Hussaina Gambo informed the court that they have complied with the order of the court, by filing a counter affidavit as few minutes before the commencement of proceedings, though not yet in the court’s file.

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Also the AGF, represented by a principal state counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abdullahi Abubakar, informed the court of his compliance with the order of the court.

Abubakar stated that the AGF is a nominal party in the matter because the investigation of the former governor is being solely undertaken by the EFCC.

But in a quick response, Yari’s lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), pleaded with Justice Maha to make an order against the two respondents not to take any action against his client pending the determination of his fundamental human rights suit.

Magaji, who cited several authorities in support of his submissions claimed that having joined issues with each other, none of the parties is expected to take any step that will perverse the administration of justice till the issue is fully determined.

Justice Maha, in a short ruling, agreed that the matter cannot go on because of the late filing of counter affidavit by the two respondents.

The judge therefore adjourned further hearing in the matter till September 5, 2019.

The judge directed parties in the suit not to take any action that will impede the administration of justice as it relates to the instant suit.

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Yari, in the suit supported by a 17-paragraph affidavit, specifically accused the respondents of persecuting him and members of his family over the turnout of political events in Zamfara State.

The affidavit deposed to by one Affis Matanmi, traced the genesis of the case against Yari to the political events within the Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that eventually led to the party losing out the leadership of the state to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the judgment of the Supreme Court.

It stated: “That after the decision of the Supreme Court, some aggrieved individuals who are very powerful decided to use agents of the 1st and 2nd respondents against the applicant.

“These individuals thus decided to carry out a vendetta and revenge against the applicant including instigating the respondents against the applicant upon their spurious conclusion without evidence that he was guilty of corrupt practices as former governor of Zamfara State and was in breach of the Code of Conduct Act.

“This witch-hunt is clearly politically motivated, baseless, and has been designed only to discredit and humiliate the applicant in a bid to decimate him politically.”

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The former governor submitted that the action of the EFCC has made it impossible for him to exercise his right or his freedom of movement without fear of being arrested and intimidated by the anti-graft commission.

Yari claimed that he fully declared all his assets in accordance with the Code of Conduct for public officers prior to assuming office as a governor and that he has not committed any offence to warrant the threats of seizure of his assets and properties most of which were acquired even before he became governor of the state.

He is therefore praying the court for “an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents from seizing, impounding, taking over, confiscating or otherwise forfeiting his assets and properties wherever they may be located within Nigeria or anywhere in the world pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

“An order of interim injunction restraining the respondents from unlawfully interfering with his rights to sections 34, 35, 41 and 43 of the 1999 constitution until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit”.

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