Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Lagos has declined to deliver judgment in the suit seeking the final forfeiture of the sums of $8.4 million and N9.2 billion, linked to former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, over conflicting affidavit evidence filed by parties in the matter.
They held that the suit can only be resolved when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and lawyers to Mrs. Jonathan give oral evidence to clear the ambiguities in their written affidavit.
Justice Olatoregun had on April 20, 2018, granted an interim order forfeiting the funds to the government after entertaining an exparte application filed before her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had specifically asked the court for an interim order forfeiting the sum of $3,645,013.73 domiciled with First Bank of Nigeria Ltd and traced to Mrs Jonathan to the government.
Asides this sum, the court further ordered the interim forfeiture of another $4.3m, N1.8bn, N226m, $429,381.87 and various other sums traced to six others said to have links with the former first lady.
Mrs. Jonathan, five firms and one, Esther Oba, were listed as respondents in the suit.
The firms that were listed as second to sixth defendants were: Globus Integrated Services Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, Am-Pm Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited and Magel Resort Limited.
The judge had fixed Thursday for judgment after the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, moved his motion for final forfeiture of the sums to the Federal government and the defence counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), and Ige Asemudara had respectively moved their processes in opposition to the motion for final forfeiture.
But instead of delivering judgment, Justice Olatoregun in a ruling held that she found the affidavit evidence conflicting and that the matter could only be resolved if the parties concerned were called upon to give oral evidence.
She held: “The applicant relied on two grounds: that the court has the statutory power under Section 17, to grant the reliefs sought and that the monies are suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity or unlawful activities, diverted from the Federal government of Nigeria.”
The judge then noted that could it be said that having regards to the provisions of Sections 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, as well as the available facts before the court, the applicant has made out a case for final forfeiture of the sums.
She stressed that various processes filed by parties to the suit which includes, affidavits, counter-affidavits, further affidavits, reply affidavits were written addresses, as well as exhibits, are not enough to determine the case.
“I have examined the issues raised on both sides and I came to the conclusion after exhaustively going through the affidavits filed by parties, and I found the affidavits conflicting on material facts.
“I believe in the circumstance that the court cannot rely on its own opinion alone; the conflict must only be determined or resolved by the evidence of parties themselves, particularly as it relates to the source of the funds.
“I believe parties should be heard and cross-examined on this issue.
“Parties are accordingly called upon to give oral testimonies,” the court held.
Justice Olatoregun had earlier dismissed an application by counsel to the respondents, seeking to set aside the interim forfeiture orders made on April 20, 2018.
The judge held that she was satisfied that the requirement for the grant of the interim orders was met by the EFCC, and that it was clear that at the time the interim order was made, there was no pending suit elsewhere.
The court adjourned the case until March 14 for the continuation of hearing.