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Apex Court affirms order for interim forfeiture of another N2.4bn linked to Patience Jonathan

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed another order of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court for the interim forfeiture of a sum of N2.4bn allegedly traced to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.

The apex court, had on March 8, barely a week ago, affirmed a similar order of interim forfeiture of the sum of $8.4m belonging to the ex-First Lady.

It had, also in the said judgment, directed her to return to the Federal High Court in Lagos to show cause why the fund should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

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On Friday, in a separate appeal, a five-man bench of the apex court unanimously handed down a similar verdict affirming an interim forfeiture of the sum of N2,421,953,522 in the bank account of Lawari Furniture and Bath Limited, a firm which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had linked to Mrs. Jonathan.

The anti-graft agency had said the various funds were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

Lawari Furniture and Bath Limited had, through its lawyers, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed the appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge a January 12, 2018 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Lagos, which had affirmed the interim forfeiture order made on April 26, 2017 by the Federal High Court in Lagos in respect of the N2.4bn.

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The EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had opposed the appeal at the hearing before the Supreme Court.

In the Friday’s lead judgment of the Justice Tanko Muhammad-led panel of the apex court, Justice Amiru Sanusi, said there was no justification to “interfere with the concurrent findings of the two lower courts.”

The lead judgment read by Justice Sidi Bage on behalf of Justice Sanusi, who was absent, stated that the apex court would only interfere with concurrent decisions of the lower courts only when “there is a special circumstance where the decision is perverse or there is misapplication of law or the facts”.

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“I have seen none of these in this appeal,” the judgement read, adding, “I find no merit in this appeal and it is accordingly dismissed”.

The court also rejected her prayer to strike down the provisions of section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act and other Fraud related offences Act, which was relied on by the Federal High Court to issue the order of interim forfeiture.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Ejembi Eko, a member of the apex court’s panel, noted that splitting of the appeal from the one ruled upon last week, was unnecessary.

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