…as a Justice withdraws from case

By Onozure Dania

Lagos—The hearing in the appeal by the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience, before the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, in which she is seeking to stop the forfeiture of her $5.7million and N2,421,953,522.78 to the Federal Government was yesterday, stalled, as one of the Justices has withdrawn from the case.

One of the three-man panel of the appellate court said he was recusing himself from hearing the appeal “for personal reasons.”

Justice John Ikyeh, who presided over the appeal alongside Justices Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo and Abrahim Georgewill, stated that three judges were required to form a quorum.

But he did not say which of the justices was withdrawing.

Justice Ikyeh said: “One of us is going to recuse himself from this case for personal reasons, so we are not complete. Two of us cannot make a quorum.”

However,  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC’s, counsel,  Mr Rotimi Oyedepo pleaded with the court to consider hearing the appeal as early as possible, preferably during vacation.

But the court observed that because it had not formed a quorum, it could not grant his request.

Justice Ikyeh said:  “We cannot write anything because we are not complete. One of us is recusing from this appeal. The appeal is hereby adjourned till September 18, first week after vacation.”

Mrs Jonathan’s appeal arose from an order obtained by the EFCC on April 26, from a  Federal High Court in Lagos, temporarily forfeiting her monies to the Federal Government.

The commission had told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who made the order, that the funds were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

Justice Olatoregun also ordered the temporary forfeiture of the N2,421,953,522.78 found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account numbered2022000760 in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd.

The commission said the money also belongs to Mrs Jonathan.

Meanwhile on May 22, Justice Olatoregun  suspended proceedings in the hearing of the EFCC’s application seeking permanent forfeiture of the cash pending the appellate court’s decision on the interim order.

She granted the applications of Mrs Jonathan’s lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN and that of counsel for La Wari Furniture and Baths, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, for a stay.

Adedipe said he had filed an application for stay of proceedings pending the appeal’s determination.

Ozekhome added that once an appeal had been entered, the lower court ought to stay proceedings.

Besides, he said, the Court of Appeal had already adjourned,  yesterday to hear the case.

Mrs Jonathan, in the appeal, is praying the court to hold that the law cited by the EFCC in its ex-parte application for the temporary forfeiture was inapplicable.

“A judge is bound by the prayers on the motion paper and the court has no jurisdiction to make a case for a party different from that presented by the said party,” the appellant said.



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