The Federal High Court in Lagos has removed the temporary forfeiture order against 14 properties and N400 million that had been reportedly connected to Yahaya Bello, the governor of Kogi State.
According to a judgement by Justice Nicholas Oweibo, the current governor has immunity under Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, hence the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission cannot take action against him.
The court had issued an order for the interim forfeiture of the 14 properties and businesses in Lagos, Abuja, and the United Arab Emirates as well as N400m, which had been recovered from one Aminu Falala, on February 22 in response to an ex parte plea by the EFCC.
The assets were allegedly obtained with the proceeds of fraud, according to the anti-graft agency, which testified before the court.
Using sections 9 and 10 of the Proceeds of Crimes (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022, the EFCC was able to convince the court to freeze the properties.
The anti-graft agency was then mandated by the court to publish the ruling in two national daily and ask any interested parties to provide justification for why the interim forfeiture should not be made permanent.
Following the publication, the governor filed an application for the vacation of the temporary forfeiture order along with a notice of intention through his legal counsel.
Bello argued that the properties were legally acquired by him long before he was elected governor of Kogi State.
He claimed that the EFCC withheld facts in order to get the forfeiture decision and asked the court to vacate it.
He further contested the Federal High Court in Lagos’ jurisdiction to hear the complaint, claiming that the assets named were in Abuja, Kogi, and the UAE, and that the personality concerned is headquartered in Lokoja, thus the litigation should have been heard in Kogi State or Abuja.
As a result, he asked the court to dismiss the case due to a lack of jurisdiction.
Though the EFCC, through its counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), disputed Bello’s petitions, Justice Oweibo agreed with the governor and lifted the forfeiture order in a ruling on Wednesday.
Given Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, which grants immunity to a sitting governor from civil or criminal prosecution, Justice Oweibo ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.
As a result, he dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.