Supreme Court upholds FG’s seizure of ex-First Lady Patience Jonathan’s $8.4m

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The Supreme Court has upheld the order of temporary forfeiture made by a Federal High Court in Lagos in respect of the $8.4million traced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.

In a judgment yesterday, a five-man panel of the court unanimously held that the appeal filed by Mrs. Jonathan, challenging the interim forfeiture, was without merit.

In the lead judgment authored by Justice Kumai Akaahs, but read yesterday by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court said the Federal High Court was right to have ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money in view of the motion ex-parte filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The apex court upheld an earlied judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, which equally upheld the temporary forfeiture.

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The Supreme Court ordered Mrs.Jonathan to go before the Federal High Court in Lagos to show cause, as earlier directed by the trial court, why the order for permanent forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government should not be made.

Justices Musa Muhammad, John Okoro, Paul Galumje and Sidi Bage, who were members of the panel, agreed with the lead judgment.

The EFCC had, in 2018 went before the Federal High Court in Lagos with an ex-parte motion, brought under Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act (AFFA) and prayed for interim forfeiture of $8,435,788.84 and other sums in various bank accounts linked to Mrs. Jonathan which it claimed were suspected proceeds of unlawful activities.

In a ruling on April 20, 2018, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun granted the ex-parte motion and 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.

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Mrs. Jonathan subsequently went before the Court of Appeal, Lagos, to challenge the competence of the ex parte motion, the validity of the order made by the Federal High Court and the constitutionality of Section 17 of AFFA, under which the motion was filed.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by Mrs. Jonathan for, among others, lacking in merit, a decision the ex-First Lady challenged at the Supreme Court.

Lawyer to Mrs. Jonathan, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) had, while arguing the appeal, urged the Supreme Court to void Section 17 of AFFA, which he argued, violated the principles of fair hearing and presumption of innocence enshrined in the constitution.

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Adedipe equally argued that the ex parte motion, which the trial court granted, failed to disclose the alleged “unlawful activities,” the funds were said to have been derived from.

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