The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, dismissed its earlier interim forfeiture order on Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi’s assets, including funds in four banks, granted to the Federal Government.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) had, on July 14, taken temporary possession of several property allegedly owned by Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North Senatorial District, including accounts in Zenith, Access, UBA and Sterling Banks.
This followed an interim forfeiture order by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on July 2, giving the lawmaker or anyone who might have owned the seized assets 30 days to convince the court why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Nigerian government.
In a motion on notice by Counsel to the senator, Mr Robbert Clarke, SAN, filed on July 11 and brought to the court’s attention, Nwaoboshi urged the court to set aside the ruling.
He also challenged the court’s jurisdiction to further grant audience to the SPIP in relation to his assets.
Justice Taiwo, while delivering ruling, on Monday, however set aside the earlier order, giving the SPIP to seize the assets.
The judge said that the court found that the SPIP lacked power to institute an action against Nwaoboshi as its establishment statute had limited its powers to only investigation.
Justice Taiwo said that the senator’s instant case was on all fours 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 issue prior 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 (Nwaoboshi ) where a prima facie case had been made to warrant the forfeiture’s order,” he said.
The judge averred 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 SPIP had brought the application in the name of the Attorney General of the Federation did 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’s property,” he said.
He said that in the light of the findings, he would not make a further order but to set aside the court earlier order made on July 2.
NAN reports that the SPIP, in ex parte application moved by the panel’s lawyer, Celsus Ukpong, haf described the assets as suspicious or suspected to be far beyond the legitimate income of Nwaoboshi.
Nwaoboshi, the Zenith Bank, Access Bank, United Bank of Africa and Sterling Bank were joined as the 1st to the 5th respondents respectively in the said ex parte application.
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 property 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.
Those exempted are Plot on C of O No. 16800, Plot on C of O No. 16711 and Plot on C of O 13988. (NAN)