A federal high court in Abuja on Tuesday validated an order it gave on July 20, 2016, authorising the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to seize some of Governor Ayodele Fayose’s assets, pending the completion of an ongoing investigation.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba who presided over the session, ruled that the order of interim forfeiture did not violate the provisions of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, which confers immunity from civil and criminal proceedings on a governor.
Punch reports that Justice Dimgba delivered his ruling shortly after hearing an application by Fayose’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), asking the court to set aside the interim forfeiture orders on Fayose’s assets, on 10 grounds.
The EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Andrew Akoja, who opposed the application, equally insisted that the agency had violated no law by obtaining the forfeiture order on assets belonging to the governor of Ekiti State.
In his ruling on Ozekhome’s application, the judge held:
“It is my considered opinion that the order of court, made on July 20, 2016, in respect of some property of the applicant, and within the limited scope and duration within which it was obtained, was duly procured and does not offend the provision of the Constitution referred to
“Although Section 308 of the Constitution serves to isolate governors of states from the distraction of litigation and legal proceedings to enable them to attend to official responsibilities, it should not be interpreted in such a way as to defeat the fight against corruption, to mean that the EFCC or other investigating agencies cannot take a peep into the assets or personal accounts of a serving governor in the execution of a strictly worded and mutually supervised interim attachment order for the purposes of obtaining evidence for use in future when the immunity has lapsed.”
Justice Dimgba however stated that the order of interim forfeiture of Fayose’s assets had a limited lifespan of 45 days from the date it was issued, being July 20.
The court further ruled that the EFCC must conclude its investigation within the 45-day lifespan of the order. Otherwise, the order would automatically cease to bind on Fayose’s assets if the anti-graft agency failed to serve the Ekiti governor a motion on notice seeking to extend the lifespan of the order.
The motion must be served at least five days to the expiration of the current order, the court held.
Fayose’s assets affected by the interim forfeiture orders re-affirmed by the court on Tuesday are four sets of four-bedroomed apartments at Chalets 3, 4, 6 and 9; Plot 100, Tiamiyu Savage, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The two others are at 44 Osun Crescent, Maitama, Abuja, and Plot 1504, Yedzeram Street, Maitama, Abuja.
The EFCC alleges that the funds used for the purchase of the property were drawn from the sum of N1,219,490,000. The said sum is part of the N4,745,000,000 allegedly stolen from the treasury of the federal government through the Office of the National Security Adviser.