The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Monday set aside its earlier order of forfeiture of 11 houses and 22 bank accounts linked to Delta-North Senator, Peter Nwaoboshi.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo vacated the interim forfeiture order he issued on July 2 while delivering judgment on the application filed by Nwaoboshi challenging the order of the court granted to Special Presidential investigative Panel on Recovery of public property(SPIP).
The judge said that the court found that the Special Investigative Panel for recovery of public property lacked power to institute an action against Senator Nwaoboshi as its establishment statute had limited its powers to investigation.
Justice Taiwo said that Sen. Nwaoboshi instant case was on all force with the decision of Court of Appeal on Tumsah’s case. He added that there was nothing before the court to show that SPIP had issued notice to the applicant before it approached the court for the order made on July 2.
“There was also no pending trial against the applicant (Senator Nwaoboshi ) where a prima facie case has been made to warrant the forfeiture”, adding that seizure of property by law enforcement agency must be done in a manner that would not negate the principles of fair hearing .
He said that the fact that the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the recovery of public property had brought the application in the name of the Attorney General of the federation does not derogate the fact that “due process was not followed”.
The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for recovery of public property can not relied on the provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to seek forfeiture of the applicant property, the judge added.
He said that in the light of the findings he will not make a further order than to set aside the earlier order made on July 2.
The judge had issued the order of July 2 following an ex parte application by the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public property, that was argued by the panel’s lawyer, Celsus Ukpong, who described the assets as suspicious or suspected to be far beyond the legitimate income of Nwaoboshi.
The bank accounts allegedly linked to Nwaoboshi are domiciled in the Zenith Bank, Access Bank, United Bank of Africa and Sterling Bank.
Although, Ukpong had applied for interim forfeiture of 14 landed assets, the judge only granted the request in respect of 11, as he exempted three of them that were without addresses from the order.
The affected properties include, Suiming Electrical Company (RC 1090069) located along Asaba Airport Road, Asaba, Delta State; PON Filling Station, along Asaba Airport Road, Asaba, Delta State and a multi-billion naira estate under construction at Maryam Babangida Road, Asaba, Delta State.
They also include, Cartage Cinema located at Okpanan Road, beside Rain Oil Petrol Station, Asaba, Delta State; Newbridge Filing Station, along Airport Road, Warri, Delta State; and a house at No. 8, Monu Olarewaju Crescent, GRA, Asaba, Delta State.
The rest are, a multi-million building located at 41, Buma Road, Apapa, Lagos; Guinea House, No. 27, Marina Road, Apapa, Lagos; Plot 3011B, Kuranah Close, Maitama, FCT, Abuja, and Ceedeez School Hall Airport Road, Asaba Delta State.