A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered the interim forfeiture of two properties belonging to former Senate President Bukola Saraki in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Justice Mohammed Liman made the order following an ex parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The anti-graft agency, through its counsel Nnaemeka Omewa, said it was seeking an order of interim forfeiture because the properties located at 17A McDonald Road, Ikoyi, were allegedly acquired through “proceeds of unlawful activities”.
Part of the reliefs sought by the EFCC included: “An order of this honourable court forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria landed property with appurtenances situate, lying and known as 17A McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, found and recovered from the respondent, which property is reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.”
The commission alleged that while serving as Kwara State governor, Saraki withdrew over N12 billion cash from the state’s account and paid same into his accounts domiciled in Access and Zenith banks through one of his personal assistants, Abdul Adama.
Ruling of the application, Justice Liman held: “Relying on the application before me with the affidavit and written address, all issues raised are resolved in favour of the applicant; the application succeeds and it is hereby granted.”
The judge also ordered the EFCC to publish the order of forfeiture of the two properties in a national daily within 14 days for any interested party or parties to show cause why the properties should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The EFCC, in an affidavit deposed to by one of its investigators, Olamide Sadiq, alleged that Saraki acquired the two properties with proceeds of unlawful activity.
Part of the affidavit reads: “Trend of cash lodgements into Saraki’s account became suspicious and in order to further disguise the source and origin of this money, the respondent changed the pattern of payment and started making payments into accounts (Exhibit EFCC 3), using fictitious names.”
The judge also instructed the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper within 14 days for anyone with interest in the properties to show cause why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Saraki yesterday reacted to the temporary forfeiture of his property by the court.
In a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, the ex-Senate President said the court must have been misled into granting the order as neither him nor his lawyers were aware of any application by the EFCC for the order.
He said there was a subsisting court order issued by the Federal High Court, Abuja, in which the same property was a subject matter and where the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Justice were parties.
Saraki said the court in that case gave an order restraining the EFCC from taking any further action until the matter was determined.
“We are sure the FHC judge in Lagos was not aware of all these facts and has, therefore, been misled into giving the temporary forfeiture order. The affected property, House Number 17 A and 17B, was specifically listed in the case against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in which the EFCC was part of the prosecution and the case went up to the Supreme Court where the apex court in its July 6, 2018, judgment ruled in his favour.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that the source of funds for the purchase of the property was not illicit, as claimed by the prosecution. On pages 12, 13 and 26 of the judgment of the highest court, this particular property at 17A McDonald Street, Ikoyi, was specifically referred to and the court upheld the ‘no case’ submission of Dr. Saraki and, therefore, ruled in his favour.
“We know that any action which tends to mislead the court amounts to misrepresentation and it is a good ground for us to get the court to throw away the order it issued today (yesterday). We are sure the order will be reversed.
“We, therefore, call on all the friends, associates and supporters of Dr. Saraki to remain calm because we know this action will not stand when the court gets to hear the side of the former Senate President,” the statement said.