Andrew Orolua – Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday set aside its earlier order of forfeiture of 11 houses and 22 bank accounts linked to Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo vacated the interim forfeiture order made on July 2 while delivering judgment on the application filed by Sen. Nwaoboshi challenging the order of the court granted to Special Presidential Investigative Panel on Recovery of Public Property (SPIP).
The judge said that the court found that the presidential panel for recovery of public property lacks power to institute an action against Sen. Nwaoboshi as its establishment statute had limited its powers to investigation.
Justice Taiwo said that Sen. Nwaoboshi’s case is similar with the decision of Court of Appeal on Tumsah’s case, adding that there was nothing before the court to show that the SPIP had issued notice to the applicant before it approached the court for the forfeiture order made on July 2.
“There was also no pending trial against the applicant (Sen. Nwaoboshi) where a prima facie case has been made to warrant the forfeiture,” adding that the seizure of property by law enforcement agencies must be done in a manner that would not negate the principles of fair hearing.
He said that the fact that the SPIP created for the recovery of public property had brought the application in the name of the attorney general of the federation does not derogate the fact that “due process was not followed.”
“The presidential panel for the recovery of public property cannot rely on the provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to seek forfeiture of the applicant’s property,” the judge added.
He said that in the light of the findings he will not make a further order than to set aside the earlier order made on July 2.
The judge had issued the order of July 2 following an ex parte application by the SPIP that was argued by the panel’s lawyer, Celsus Ukpong, who described the assets as suspicious or suspected to be far beyond the legitimate income of Sen. Nwaoboshi.
The bank accounts allegedly linked to the senator are domiciled in the Zenith Bank, Access Bank, United Bank of Africa and Sterling Bank.
Although, Ukpong had applied for the interim forfeiture of 14 landed assets, the judge only granted the request in respect of 11, as he exempted three of them that were without addresses from the order.
The affected properties include, Suiming Electrical Company, located along Asaba Airport Road, PON Filling Station, along Asaba Airport Road, and a multi-billion naira estate under construction at Maryam Babangida Road, Asaba.
They also include, Cartage Cinema located at Okpanan Road, beside Rain Oil Petrol Station, Asaba, Newbridge Filing Station, along Airport Road, Warri, and a house at No. 8, Monu Olarewaju Crescent, GRA, Asaba.
The rest are a multi-million naira building located at 41 Buma Road, Apapa, Lagos, Guinea House, No. 27, Marina Road, Apapa, Lagos, Plot 3011B, Kuranah Close, Maitama, Abuja and Ceedeez School Hall, Airport Road, Asaba.