A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed March 28 for the hearing of a final forfeiture application of the sum of $5.8 million USD and N2, 421, 953, 522.78 billion, said to belong to former First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
Justice Tijjani Ringim fixed the date after listening to the arguments of counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Oyedepo SAN.
Apart from the former First Lady, other defendants in the suit are La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited.
Defence counsels, Mike Ozekhome SAN and Sammie Somiari SAN had applied to the court that that case be adjourned sine die pending the outcome of their appeal.
However, in a swift reaction, Oyedepo opposed the application.
He said, “My Lord, the only motion ripe for hearing which is binding on my Lord in view of Supreme Court judgment is that of final forfeiture”.
Justice Ringim upheld Oyedepo’s submissions and directed that the motion for final forfeiture will be taken and determined first as canvassed by the EFCC counsel.
Consequently, the judge adjourned the case to March 28, for the hearing of the application for final forfeiture of the funds.
In 2017, the EFCC filed the suit seeking the forfeiture of the sums to the Federal Government. The defendants in the suit were Mrs Jonathan alongside LA Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd.
According to the EFCC, the funds belonged to the ex-First Lady.
The case was assigned to Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.
On April 26, 2017, sequel to an exparte application by the EFCC, Justice Olatoregun ordered the temporary forfeiture of the monies, which were said to be warehoused by Skye Bank Plc and Ecobank Plc respectively.
This order was challenged up to Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court ordered that the lower court should continue with the hearing of the matter.
Midway into hearing on the final forfeiture of the funds, Justice Olatoregun retired, a development which compelled the Chief Registrar of the Court to reassign the case to Justice Obiozor for hearing.
But before Justice Obiozor could preside over the matter, he was transferred to another jurisdiction of the court, consequently, the matter was inherited by Justice Ringim.
In urging the court to order the final forfeiture, the EFCC said: “The $5million was not the first respondent’s (Mrs Jonathan’s) legitimate earning.
“She was a public servant and a salary earner. The sums cannot be her legitimate income. We urge the court to agree with us and forfeit the sum to the Federal Government.”
On the N2.4billion, the commission said the opening of the account where the money is domiciled is “shrouded in mystery and fraud”.