A Justice of the Abuja Federal High Court, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, on Tuesday, August 2, declared as legally valid, the order it issued on July 20, 2016, giving an official permission to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to seize some of Governor Fayose’s assets pending the completion of an ongoing investigation.
In his ruling shortly after hearing an application by Fayose’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), asking the court to set aside the interim forfeiture orders on 10 grounds, the judge said the order did not violate the provisions of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, which confers immunity from civil and criminal proceedings on a governor.
He explained that the immunity of Governor Fayose or other serving governors does not stop the anti-graft agencies from investigating them for fraud nor from seizing their properties.
“Although Section 308 of the Constitution serves to isolate governors of states from the distraction of litigation and legal proceedings to enable them to attend to official responsibilities, it should not be interpreted in such a way as to defeat the fight against corruption, to mean that the EFCC or other investigating agencies cannot take a peep into the assets or personal accounts of a serving governor in the execution of a strictly worded and mutually supervised interim attachment orders for the purposes of obtaining evidence for use in future when the immunity has lapsed.”
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Dimgba nevertheless, said the order of interim forfeiture made on July 20 had a 45-day lifespan from the date it was issued. He therefore ordered the EFCC to conclude its investigation within the 45-day lifespan of the order, adding that the order would automatically dissolve if the EFCC failed to serve a motion on notice seeking its extension on Fayose at least five days to its expiration.
Fayose’s assets affected by the interim forfeiture orders are four sets of four-bedroomed apartments at Charlets 3, 4, 6 and 9; Plot 100, Tiaminu Savage, Victoria Island, Lagos. The two others are at 44 Osun Crescent, Maitama, Abuja, and Plot 1504, Yedzeram Street, Maitama, Abuja.
The EFCC claimed that the properties were acquired with proceeds of fraud which Fayose allegedly got through kickbacks from contractors and other alleged fraudulent means.