The federal High Court in Lagos on Monday suspended proceedings in the hearing of an application seeking permanent forfeiture of $5.7million belonging to Mrs. Patience Jonathan, former first lady and wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Justice Mojisola Olaterogun stayed proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal challenging the temporal forfeiture of the money
Olaterogun however fixed September 24, 2017 for hearing in the application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking the final forfeiture order on the sum of $5.7m.
The adjournment came following a Court of Appeal order on stay of proceedings sought by Jonathan.
The court had, on April 26, 2017, ordered an interim forfeiture of the money, following an ex-parte motion by the EFCC.
In granting the temporary forfeiture, the court had adjourned to May 18, 2017 for the respondent to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
However, at the last adjourned date, counsel to Jonathan, Ifedapo Adedipe, SAN, told the court that he needed more time to file necessary responses to the court’s order.
Adedipe also alleged that the Commission failed to publish the notice of the court’s order in a national newspaper in time.
Jonathan’s counsel further asked for an adjournment, which was granted by the court.
However, the proceedings could not continue today owing to a pending appeal at the appellate court.
Addressing the court, counsel to the former First Lady, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said; “The appeal in this matter has been entered and going by Rule 5 of the Court of Appeal rules, this court ceases to exercise jurisdiction to proceed in this matter. It will amount to an illegal judicial voyage, if this court embarks on the proceedings in this matter.”
Citing several judicial authorities and court of Appeal rules, Ozekhome said it would amount to disrespect for court hierarchy for the judge to proceed with the case where there was pending appeal.
He said the lower court ceased to have jurisdiction once the appeal was entered and records transferred noting that “It is the law that says once a party to a matter has filed an appeal and the records of proceedings transferred, the lower court ought to wash its hands off the case like Pontius Pilate”.
“The Supreme Court says it will amount to judicial impertinence to entertain the matter when there is a notion pending at the appeal court” Ozekhome said, adding, “It will amount to embarking on an illegal judicial voyage of discovery”.
In his response, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that he was not aware of any hearing notice by the appellate court.
However, Ozekhome showed a copy of the appellate court’s hearing notice to the court.
Consequently, in his her short ruling, Justice Olatoregun said: “As a result of the appeal notice that has been entered, coupled with the hearing notice slated for July 5,
I am inclined to grant an adjournment in this matter for parties to ventilate their views in the appellate court.”
The matter was adjourned to September 2, 2017.
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