The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has expressed dissatisfaction over the ruling of a Federal High Court, in Abuja on Monday, returning seized assets to a former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Stella Oduah. EFCC had linked the seized assets to corruption investigation involving the former minister.
The court had on 18 October, 2019, made an interim order of forfeiture of the assets to the Federal Government following the request from EFCC.
The affected assets included dredging vessels and quarry equipment located at Chifuyi village, Apo, Abuja, which are owned by Sabora International Limited registered as a company based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Other assets, which were listed to be owned by Crystal Television Limited, located in Kaura District, Behind Games Village, Abuja includes a mast above 120 feet, 20 crates of television/radio equipment, two installed cooling units, and one top class Total Energy 274KVA generator.
The two companies, Sabora and Crystal Television had filled applications challenging the interim forfeiture order.
Justice Ekwo in his judgement on Monday, said that the EFCC had misrepresented facts when it stated in the ex parte application for interim forfeiture order in 2017 that Oduah “is the owner of Sobora International Limited and Crystal Television Limited”.
“On the strength of the EFCC’s misrepresented and misleading application to the court on May 15, 2017, granted order of interim forfeiture/attachment of properties belonging to the two companies,” the judge said.
“It is my opinion upon so doing that respondents have debunked the evidence of the applicant that supported their case for interim forfeiture order made by this court on October 18, 2019.
“The respondents have established their interest in the subject matter of the assets listed in the schedule upon which the interim forfeiture order was made to the satisfaction of this court. Their case succeeds on the merit.
“Consequently, the said interim forfeiture order is hereby set aside. I therefore make an order dismissing the case of the applicant. This is the order of this court” Justice Ekwo said.
However, the judge did not award cost in favour of the companies, after an opposition from EFCC lawyer, Offem Uket. The companies’ lawyer Noah Abdul, had asked for a cost of N200 million to be awarded against EFCC for the losses the firms had incurred due to the interim forfeiture order.
In its response to the court ruling, EFCC said it will appeal the case. This was made known in a statement in Abuja by its Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Dele Oyewale. as well as in series of tweets from the agency.
“The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been drawn to a ruling of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, delivered on Monday, June 8, 2020, on the vacation of an interim forfeiture order regarding some assets traced to former Aviation Minister, Senator Stella Oduah.
’‘Justice Inyang Ekwo, in the ruling, struck out the EFCC’s counter-affidavit on the ground that it “was filed out of time without first seeking the court’s leave for an extension of time to file”.
‘The EFCC is dissatisfied with the ruling and will file an appeal against it accordingly.’