The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has declined a move seeking the final forfeiture of two properties belonging to a former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
Justice Mohammed Liman turned down the move in a ruling on Monday over insufficient and conflicting affidavit evidence filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He held that the documents put before the court by the EFCC in support of the final forfeiture order were insufficient.
The judge also held that the EFCC’s documents did not establish any link showing that Kwara State government funds were used to repay Saraki’s loan.
He concluded by asking the anti-graft agency to call its witnesses at the next adjourned date, to give oral evidence to resolve the inconsistencies and contradictions in its documents.
Lawyers to the former Senate President would also get an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.
The judge, who also dismissed a preliminary objection filed by the former Senate President, assumed jurisdiction to hear the suit and subsequently fixed September 29 for the next hearing.
In the suit, the EFCC had asked the court to order the final forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Saraki’s properties situated at 17 & 17A, McDonald Road in the Ikoyi area of Lagos.
At the last sitting of the court on March 5, the EFCC counsel, Nnaemeka Omewa, who moved the application for the final forfeiture, told Justice Liman that the properties were acquired with a loan obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank and paid back by money suspected to have been diverted from the coffers of the Kwara State government.
The counsel said, “There are written statements from some officials of the Kwara State government on how the money was taken from the coffers of the state government and used to pay back the loan.”
The EFCC, therefore, asked the court to look at the merit of its case, all the exhibits attached, and make an order permanently forfeiting the properties to the Federal Government.
However, counsel to the former Senate President, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, had asked the court to reject the application by the EFCC.
He argued that the anti-graft agency was unable to prove that the money used to pay back the loan was acquired by any illegal activity.
Ogunwumiju also told the court that the EFCC had litigated on the same properties before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, all the way to the Supreme Court and had lost.
He then asked the court to dismiss the EFFC’s suit seeking the final forfeiture of the properties and rule in favour of the former Senate President.