A Federal High Court Lagos on Monday suspended proceedings in the hearing of an application seeking permanent forfeiture of $5.7million belonging to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun stayed proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal filed by Jonathan, challenging the temporary forfeiture of the sum.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had sought an order of permanent forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government.
Justice Olatoregun on April 26 made an interim order, forfeiting the money based on an application by EFCC, which said the money was suspected to be “proceeds of crime”.
Olatoregun had also ordered the temporary forfeiture of N2.4 billion found in an Ecobank account in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd.
The commission said the money was also linked to Mrs Jonathan.
On Monday, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that he was ready to move his application for the money’s forfeiture, adding that the respondents had filed counter-affidavits.
In response, Jonathan’s lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), said he filed an application for stay of proceedings pending the appeal’s determination.
Counsel for La Wari Furniture and Baths, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), added that once an appeal had been entered, the lower court ought to stay proceedings.
Besides, he said that the Court of Appeal had already fixed the case for hearing on July 5.
Citing numerous judicial authorities and the Court of Appeal rules, he said it would amount to disrespect for court hierarchy for the judge to proceed with the case where there is a pending appeal on a decision.
“The entire proceedings will be an illegality, if it goes on.
“After an appeal had been entered, the Court of Appeal shall be seized of the entire proceedings; any application to be made shall be to the Court of Appeal and not to the court below.
“It’s not for this court to remove the carpet from the foot of the Court of Appeal. It will be an affront to the authority of the Court of Appeal,” Ozekhome said.
He further argued that the lower court ceases to have jurisdiction once an appeal is entered and records transferred.
“It is the law that once a party to a matter has filed an appeal and the records of proceedings transferred, the lower court ought to wash its hands off the case like Pontius Pilate.
Ruling, Justice Olatoregun held that it would be in the interest of justice to await the Court of Appeal decision.
“I have seen the hearing notice issued by the Court of Appeal. I believe it will be in the interest of justice for parties to ventilate their views at the Court of Appeal.
“I will, therefore, adjourn this case until of Sept. 20,’’ she said.