The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered an interim forfeiture of 13 properties belonging to a former governor of Katsina State, Dr. Ibrahim Shema, who is already being prosecuted on 22 counts of corruption and financial crimes.
But Shema, through his lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), on Monday filed a motion before the court seeking an order setting aside the interim forfeiture order made on November 1.
Daudu contended in the motion that the properties were legitimately acquired by his client, adding that the ex parte application through which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission obtained the interim forfeiture order was a “brazen attempt” to acquire the ex-governor’s properties “in the absence of a conviction.”
Shema is being prosecuted by the EFCC before the Katsina State High Court in Katsina.
But the commission, had through its ex parte application filed before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on October 6, 2017, sought a temporary forfeiture of the said assets/properties “pending conclusion of investigation and determination of criminal charges that might be filed against the suspect.”
After listening to the EFCC’s lawyer, O.I. Uket, Justice Kolawole on November 1, 2017 granted the order of interim forfeiture in respect of the 13 properties, directing the ex-governor to, within seven days of being aware of the court order, to apply by a motion on notice to the court order to either discharge or vary the orders.
The affected properties are a five-bedroomed duplex at Plot 1072, Asokoro, Abuja; a large farmland at Dutsi-Ma, Katsina State; 710 hectares of farmland at Chikaji, Igbabi-Kaduna; a fully-built duplex for residential purposes at House 5, Idanre Hills, off Kerang Spring, Maitama Extension, Abuja; and 1.05 hectares of land at Plot 352 Idu Industrial Layout, Abuja.
They also include an underdeveloped plot of land at Plot 8505, E35 Karaway, Abuja; two blocks of 12 flats consisting of three bedrooms each at 8, Attabara Street, Off Cairo Street, Wuse II, Abuja; and a bungalow of four bedrooms at 5, Sullubawa Road, Unguwan Sarki, Kaduna; and a bungalow of four bedrooms at 2, Safana Road, Kaduna.
The rest are a bungalow of four bedrooms at 8, Jaba Road, Kaduna, office chambers of three rooms at E2 Waff Road, Kaduna; and a fully built duplex of four bedroom for residential purposes at 5, Sambo Close, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna; completed duplex with boys quarters, 4, Oba Akenzuwa Street, off Yakubu Gowon Road, Asokoro Abuja.
In its order of interim forfeiture, Justice Kolawole ruled the order of forfeiture “shall operate” pending when fresh criminal charges would be instituted against Shema, named as suspect in the EFCC’s ex parte motion.
But the judge also directed that the ex-governor was at liberty to file an application seeking a variation or discharge of the order.
He ruled, “That prayers 1, 2 and 3 in the “ex-parte originating motion” are granted as prayed.
“That in order to protect the interest of the person named as a “suspect,” these orders shall operate pending when a court of competent jurisdiction is fully seized of any criminal charge which may be filed against the person named as “suspect” and as the alleged owner of the thirteen (13) real properties listed in the Schedule to the instant ‘ex parte originating motion.’
“That the person named as a ‘suspect’ and as the alleged owner of the said 13 real properties listed in the Schedule to the applicant’s ‘ex-parte originating motion,’ shall be at liberty within seven (7) days of becoming aware of the existence and operation of these orders, to apply by a motion on notice to the court to either discharge or vary the orders herein granted on such grounds as are justifiable by law.
“That the person named as a ‘suspect’ may alternatively extend such proposals to the applicant which may meet the fear of the applicant that these assets may be dealt with before the conclusion of the trial of such criminal indictments which may be initiated against him, and if such proposals are found acceptable in the context of the concept of a plea bargain, the orders granted herein may either be varied or discharged in the absence of any such event, these orders shall remain extant until when the court, seized of the criminal charge, may otherwise order;
“That this shall be the ruling of this court. It is only an application which the person named as “suspect” held to either seek for a variation or outright discharge of the orders granted, that can operate to restore this matter in the Federal High Court’s cause list.
“That it is not intended to be a final order which expropriates the person named as ‘suspect’ of his financial and property interest without him being heard, but shall operate as an interim order pending when a criminal charge is filed and disposed of against the person named as a ‘suspect’ or when an application is successfully made to ‘ vacate or vary the orders granted on ‘the applicant’s “ex-parte originating motion” dated 4/10/17 which succeeds in the manner and tenor of this ruling.”
But Shema on Monday filed an application before Justice Kolawole, praying for an order “vacating, setting aside and/or discharging the interim order(s) of this honourable court made on November 1, 2017 against the applicant’s properties arising from the respondent’s application titled, ‘Ex Parte Originating Motion’ filed on October 6, 2017.”
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