The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was unable to convince the Federal High Court, Abuja, to hear its exparte motion seeking an order to make the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, forfeit her property at plot No 1758 Cadastral Zone, Ado, Central Business District, Abuja.
This was as Justice Nnamdi Dimgba could not hear the application following heated arguments between counsel to Dame Jonathan, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), and counsel to EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir.
Chief Ozekhome on his part, brought an application that challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the exparte motion, while Tahir tried as much as possible to move the exparte application. Tahir prayed the court to hear the EFCC motion because in the face of the application, it is an exparte, stressing that the motion was seeking an order of the court to freeze property located at plot No 1758 Cadastral Zone Ado Central Business District, Abuja, which he alleged was a product of crime.
He noted that Dame Jonathan was a stranger to the exparte motion, and as such, could not challenge the motion, and therefore urged the court to allow him move the motion and grant the order freezing the property. According to him, it was only then that Dame Jonathan could ask for a revocation of the order.
Counsel to Jonathan, Ozekhome (SAN), who addressed the court on behalf of the lead counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), stated that their application was challenging the court jurisdiction, and that there were circumstances where an exparte application could be opposed like the instant case.
He added that the EFCC motion was an example where an exparte application could be challenged because it was an abuse of court process.
He noted that the Commission wanted to overreach the fundamental human rights suit pending before the court in suit No /FHC/CS/586/2017, filed by Ariwabai Aruewa Reachout Foundation – the owners of the property the Commission sought to freeze.
The counsel urged the court to hear his application, challenging the court jurisdiction first and then, the court will find the exparte motion as an abuse of court process.
In his ruling, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, stated that exparte applications are heard without the other party and that it was the general principle.
The judge noted that there was no counter-affidavit challenging the motion on jurisdiction. He also observed that the issue of abuse of court process has been raised.
Therefore, for the singular reason that the court must protect its integrity, the court have to conduct inquiries, and that the only way to conduct that inquiry was to hear both applications together.
He consequently adjourned the matter to November 11 for hearing.