Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday set aside his earlier order of interim forfeiture against 40 properties linked to former Deputy Senate President (DSP) Ike Ekweremadu.
Justice Ekwo discharged the order on the grounds that it was obtained on concealment of facts.
Delivering ruling in Ekweremadu’s motion challenging the interim forfeiture order, the court faulted the request of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in asking someone who is currently detained in the United Kingdom to come and show cause why the affected properties should not be permanently forfeited to the government.
Following an exparte application by the EFCC, Justice Ekwo had last year ordered the federal government to temporary seize 40 landed properties belonging to the former Deputy Senate President, pending the order for the affected persons to show cause why the properties shoud not be permanently given to the federal government.
Since the order of interim forfeiture was issued, Ekweremadu through his lawyer, the Anambra State Government and a medical firm have come out to challenge the order.
While Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) had argued on behalf of Ekweremadu, the federal government’s lawyer, Mr Sylvanus Tahir (SAN), who had opposed the request for the setting aside of the forfeiture order, stated that he would however not oppose an order of status quo, pending the return of Ekweremadu, who is currently being detained in the United Kingdom over allegations bordering on organ harvesting.
In the application for setting aside of the order of interim forfeiture, Ekweremadu accused EFCC of being responsible for his travails at the London court where he has been held since June this year for allegedly taking a minor to the UK for the purpose of harvesting the minor’s organ.
Although Ekweremadu, who was arrested alongside his wife, Beatrice, pleaded not guilty to the charge, emphasizing that the alleged victim was not a minor as claimed, adding that the victim had agreed to follow them to the UK to donate part of his organ for Ekweremadu’s sick daughter in a London hospital.
Awomolo, in supporting the allegations, informed Justice Ekwo that the commission wrote a letter to the London court, following which the foreign court denied Ekweremadu bail.
Speaking further, the learned silk claimed that the forfeiture order was granted to the federal government in error because the EFCC suppressed information and facts in respect of the properties.
According to Awomolo, the anti-graft agency fraudulently obtained the forfeiture order for the government by
concealing information that investigation on the 40 properties started as far back as 2008.
Among others, he alleged that the EFCC was fully aware that Ekweremadu was in detention in London when the application for forfeiture of the properties was filed and argued.
He said that the anti-graft agency deliberately refused to disclose to the court that the former DSP is being held in London and would not be able to counter the forfeiture request.
Awomolo therefore prayed the court to set aside the forfeiture order and stay proceedings in the matter until Ekweremadu resolves his ordeal at the London court.
Responding, EFCC’s lawyer, Tahir, denied that his client was behind Ekweremadu’s ordeal.
Tahir however admitted that EFCC wrote the London court based on a special request, adding that it was a normal routine for anti-graft agencies to exchange information that would be of help to one another.
Tahir did not oppose the request for stay of proceedings till Ekweremadu fully resolves his matter before the London court but vehemently opposed the request for setting aside of the forfeiture order.
Justice Ekwo after taking arguments from parties fixed January 25, 2024 for ruling in the matter.