By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Spirited efforts by the embattled former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, to invoke the powers of a Federal High Court in Abuja with a view to stopping the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from taking possession of his 48 choice properties in Abuja, failed.
Sequel to resolve of the anti-graft agency on Thursday to take possession of Sylva’s properties pending the determination of the six-count criminal charge it preferred against him, the embattled former governor Friday, ran before the high court, begging it to restrain the EFCC from touching his assets.
This was even as the Commission accused the ex-Governor of deliberately attempting to subject the judiciary to ridicule by approaching the high court for a restraining order despite being aware that another high court of the same coordinate jurisdiction had earlier granted an interim forfeiture order against him.
Whereas Justice A.R Mohammed had on December 21, 2012, granted the EFCC leave to seize the properties, however, Justice M.M Kolo while sitting as a vacation judge, on December 27, following an application by Sylva, granted a restraining order against the anti-graft agency.
Consequently, both the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, Friday, entered preliminary objections querying the legal propriety of the subsequent order that was issued in favour of the ex-Governor.
Arguing in court Friday, counsel to the EFCC and AGF, Mr Oghenovo Otemu and B.A Saheed, respectively, further challenged the jurisdiction of the high court presided by Justice Kolo to entertain Sylva’s suit.
Though Sylva had through his counsel, Mr Benson Ibezim, insisted that the preliminary objections filed against his suit were not ripe for hearing since the processes were served on him inside the court room, saying he would need time to respond, however, EFCC, urged the court to allow for an oral argument so as to save the judiciary from mockery owing to the two conflicting orders.
EFCC maintained that the accused ex-Governor ought to have vacated the interim forfeiture order earlier issued against him before securing a conflicting order from another court of same coordinate jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, in a bid to justify his action, Sylva, told the court that the EFCC did not serve the said forfeiture order on him hence his decision to seek for a restraining order.
In response, EFCC, told the court that the December 21 order was pasted on all the affected properties and that it was also served on Sylva himself, insisting that the former Governor hoodwinked the court into granting him ex-parte order by deliberately suppressing information regarding the matter.
It therefore urged the court to vacate its December 27 restraining order as the properties in question have already been seized.
In his ruling, presiding Justice Kolo said he would not vacate the order, contending that the court was not aware of a pending order of the Federal High Court before it issued the controversial ex parte order in favour of Sylva.
Besides, Justice Kolo said he had decided to hands-off the matter, saying his stay as a vacation judge expired yesterday.
He however told all the parties that the case-file will be remitted back to the Chief Judge of the High Court for re-assignment to another judge with an order that the matter be heard expeditiously due to the nature of the case.