On Friday, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja revoked his earlier decision to temporarily forfeit 40 assets connected to the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu.
The order was revoked by Justice Ekwo on the basis that it was obtained using false information.
The court criticized the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for asking someone who is currently being held in the United Kingdom to come and demonstrate why the affected properties shouldn’t be permanently forfeited to the government in its ruling on Ekweremadu’s motion challenging the interim forfeiture order.
Justice Ekwo had ordered the federal government to temporarily seize 40 landed properties belonging to the former Deputy Senate President in response to an exparte application by the EFCC last year. This was done while waiting for the affected parties to provide justification as to why the properties should not be permanently given to the federal government.
Ekweremadu, through his attorney, the Anambra State Government, and a medical company have all come forward to contest the order of interim forfeiture since it was imposed.
While Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, argued on behalf of Ekweremadu, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, SAN, the federal government’s attorney, said he would not oppose a status quo order until Ekweremadu’s return, who is currently being held in the United Kingdom on suspicion of organ harvesting.
Ekweremadu claimed in his motion to set aside the decision of temporary forfeiture that the EFCC was to blame for his ordeals at the London Court, where he has been detained since June of this year over allegations that he brought a juvenile to the country in order to harvest the child’s organs.
While arguing that the accused victim was not a kid as claimed and that he had agreed to travel with them to the UK to give a portion of his organ for Ekweremadu’s ill daughter in a London hospital, Ekweremadu, who was detained alongside his wife Beatrice, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Justice Ekwo was briefed by Awomolo in support of the claims that the commission addressed a letter to London after which the foreign court refused Ekweremadu bail.
The learned silk went on to say that the EFCC withheld information and facts regarding the properties, leading to the federal government’s improper receipt of the forfeiture order.
Awomolo asserts that the anti-graft agency deceitfully secured the confiscation order for the government by hiding the fact that an inquiry into the 40 properties began in 2008.
Among other things, he said that when the application for forfeiture of the properties was made and contested, the EFCC was fully aware that Ekweremadu was being held in London.
He said that the anti-graft organization purposefully chose not to inform the court that the former DSP is being held in London and is therefore unable to contest the motion for forfeiture.
As a result, Awomolo requested that the forfeiture decision be reversed and that the case’s proceedings be put on hold until Ekweremadu’s experience before the London Court is through.
The EFCC’s attorney, Tahir, responded by denying that his client was responsible for Ekweremadu’s trauma.
However, Tahir acknowledged that the EFCC wrote the London Court in response to a specific request, and he said that information sharing between anti-graft organizations was customary.Tahir vigorously opposed the plea to set aside the forfeiture order but did not object to the request for a stay of the proceedings until Ekweremadu had properly resolved his case before the London Court.
After hearing from the parties and setting a deadline for a decision, Justice Ekwo set January 25 of the next year.
HURIWA Condemns EFCC
The Human Rights Writers Association, HURIWA, a civil liberties advocacy group, has criticized the EFCC for deceiving the Federal High Court in Abuja into approving an earlier order of interim forfeiture of properties connected to Ekweremadu. They have also called for the hierarchy of the Abdulrasheed-led anti-graft agency to be censured for judicial subterfuge.
HURIWA stated that the Federal High Court’s Justice Inyang Ekpo’s decision yesterday had further exposed “the alleged unholy alliance of the EFCC and the London Metropolitan Police and authorities” in the Senator’s continued detention, and emphasized that failure to sanction the EFCC would further entrench the abuse of the legal system.
“We salute the court for this display of courage despite the well-known techniques of intimidating the judiciary and supposedly arm-twisting it by the EFCC,” HURIWA added.
“This well-founded decision has confirmed our November 4, 2022 position that the asset forfeiture lawsuit at a time when Ekweremadu was in custody, was being tried in the UK, and was unable to represent himself was malicious, immoral, done in bad faith, and amounted to a nation tossing its citizen under the bus.
“We are equally pleased with the court’s report that the ruling made it clear to Nigerians and the rest of the world that the London prosecutors relied on the EFCC’s letter to block Ekweremadu’s release on bail for an alleged offense that is bailable, but only so that the same EFCC could return home and ask a man they assisted in keeping in indefinite detention to come forward and explain why his alleged properties shouldn’t be forfeited.
Therefore, in our opinion, the EFCC’s deliberate deception, concealing of facts, misrepresentation to the court, and obtaining of a court order under false pretense as described in the judgement must be addressed with sufficient legal reprimand to serve as a warning to other agencies.