Court lifts forfeiture order on 14 properties, N400m belonging to Gov Bello

Ogunsakin Mustapha
3 Min Read
Yahaya Bello, former Gov, Kogi State

A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Wednesday has struck out an interim order of forfeiture obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking to seize 14 properties allegedly linked to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.

Justice Nicholas Oweibo struck out the suit on the ground that Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution prevents the institution of any criminal or civil case against a sitting governor or the President in the country.

The court had, on February 22, 2023, granted a preservation order of the properties linked to the Kogi State government and reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activities, pursuant to Sections 9 and 10 of the Proceeds of Crimes (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022.

The properties including “Hotel Apartment Community, Burj Khalifa lying, being and situate at, Plot 160 Municipality NO 345-7562, Sky View Building No 1, Property No 401, Floor 4, Dubai U.A.E.”, were reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity.

The Court also ordered EFCC to make publication of the order in two national dailies for any interested parties to show cause why the order should not be made absolute.

However, consequent upon the publication of the preservative order, Governor Yahaya Bello filed a Notice of Intention to oppose, and an application seeking the vacation of the interim forfeiture order.

The Governor premised his application on the ground that the properties listed were not proceeds of unlawful act, as they were acquired by him long before he was elected as Kogi State Governor and could not have been acquired from Kogi State funds.

He stated that the interim forfeiture order was obtained by either suppression or misrepresentation of facts by the Commission.

He said the validity of the Proceeds of Crime Act, 2022 was being challenged at the Supreme Court.

Regarding jurisdiction, the Governor stated that the properties listed were in Abuja, Kogi and UAE, and the personality involved is based in Lokoja, adding that the suit ought to have been instituted either in Abuja or in Kogi State. He, therefore, asked the court to vacate the case for lack of jurisdiction.

In his response, EFCCs counsel Rotimi Oyedepo SAN said that the applicant had brought nothing before the court to convince the court to vacate the order.

He said, contrary to the submissions of the Applicant, Kogi State High Court or any other court in Nigeria had not stopped the EFCC from carrying out its constitutional duties.

In his ruling, Justice Nicholas Oweibo held that, given Section 308 of the Constitution, which gives immunity to a sitting governor from any civil/criminal prosecution, the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Consequently, the court struck out the suit for lack of jurisdiction.

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