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Court adjourns ruling on Nwaoboshi’s application till Oct 4

By Innocent Anaba

A  Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, adjourned till  October 4, to rule  on an application by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North), seeking to vacate the order for the temporary forfeiture of his property.

It will be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had alleged that he laundered part of N1.5 billion, which he allegedly fraudulently obtained from Delta State Government, through a company, Suiming Nigeria Limited.

The commission, which had earlier secured an interim order made by Justice Abdullazeez Anka forfeiting a 12-storey building belonging to the senator, and which he allegedly bought with the money, yesterday asked the court to refuse Nwaoboshi’s application.

Meanwhile, arguing an application seeking to discharge the forfeiture order, Nwaoboshi’s counsel,  Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, contended that the  said commission concealed material facts in obtaining the order, and did not comply with the EFCC Act, which he said robbed the court of jurisdiction.

He argued that said the temporary forfeiture violated his client’s right to own property as guaranteed by Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution, adding that the suit was an abuse of court process.

“It becomes dangerous for citizens if the state can seize citizens’ property without a criminal proceding against them,” adding that mere suspicion of crime was not a valid reason to attach a property, as  “There is nothing linking money from the contract to the property.”

He further argued that the case was an abuse of court process because there was an pending case at the Asaba, Delta State division of the court on the same issue.

“The case in Asaba predated this order. They should have disclosed to your lordship the existence of that case,” Idigbe said.

But, EFCC’s lawyer Ekele Iheanacho said the right to own property was not absolute, and that a property can be temporarily forfeited during investigation even if no charge has been filed.

According to EFCC, Nwaoboshi has 20 bank accounts which he operates in Nigeria, while companies directly linked to him maintain another 20.

The commission said the interim forfeiture order granted on April 21 was to preserve the property from being dissipated.

Arguing an application seeking to discharge the forfeiture order, Nwaoboshi’s counsel,  Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, contended that the  said commission concealed material facts in obtaining the order, and did not comply with the EFCC Act, which he said robbed the court of jurisdiction.

He argued that said the temporary forfeiture violated his client’s right to own property as guaranteed by Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution, adding that the suit was an abuse of court process.

“It becomes dangerous for citizens if the state can seize citizens’ property without a criminal proceding against them,” adding that mere suspicion of crime was not a valid reason to attach a property, as  “There is nothing linking money from the contract to the property.”

He further argued that the case was an abuse of court process because there was an pending case at the Asaba, Delta State division of the court on the same issue.

“The case in Asaba predated this order. They should have disclosed to your lordship the existence of that case,” Idigbe said.

But, EFCC’s lawyer Ekele Iheanacho said the right to own property was not absolute, and that a property can be temporarily forfeited during investigation even if no charge has been filed.

An EFCC operative,  Garuba Abubakar, in a counter-affidavit to the senator’s motion, said Nwaoboshi, a former Delta State chairman of PDP, got a contract through his company, Bilderberg Enterprises Limited, to supply new construction equipment for the state Direct Labour Agency at N1,580,000,000.

The company allegedly imported and supplied used construction equipment rather than brand new ones despite receiving full payment.

EFCC said that Nwaoboshi, with the proceeds, bought the 12-floor building at 29, Marine Road, Apapa from Delta State Government at N805 million in the name of Golden Touch Construction Projects Limited.

The commission said the senator had no “visible legitimate business venture to generate the amount spent to purchase the said property.”

According to EFCC, Nwaoboshi has 20 bank accounts which he operates in Nigeria, while companies directly linked to him maintain another 20.

The commission said the interim forfeiture order granted on April 21 was to preserve the property from being dissipated.

Arguing an application seeking to discharge the forfeiture order, Nwaoboshi’s counsel,  Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, contended that the  said commission concealed material facts in obtaining the order, and did not comply with the EFCC Act, which he said robbed the court of jurisdiction.

He argued that said the temporary forfeiture violated his client’s right to own property as guaranteed by Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution, adding that the suit was an abuse of court process.

“It becomes dangerous for citizens if the state can seize citizens’ property without a criminal proceding against them,” adding that mere suspicion of crime was not a valid reason to attach a property, as  “There is nothing linking money from the contract to the property.”

He further argued that the case was an abuse of court process because there was an pending case at the Asaba, Delta State division of the court on the same issue.

“The case in Asaba predated this order. They should have disclosed to your lordship the existence of that case,” Idigbe said.

But, EFCC’s lawyer Ekele Iheanacho said the right to own property was not absolute, and that a property can be temporarily forfeited during investigation even if no charge has been filed.

 


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