The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has appealed a ruling that struck out its suit seeking the forfeiture of 14 properties and the sum of N400m linked to Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello.
EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), filed the notice of appeal on April 26 hours after the Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court, Lagos struck out the order of interim forfeiture it granted the anti-graft agency on February 22.
The judge upheld Bello’s argument, among others, that he was covered by immunity from prosecution under the 1999 constitution, thus the EFCC could not seize, even temporarily, the cash and properties.
The properties – in Lagos, Abuja and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – include Hotel Apartment Community, Burj Khalifa, at Plot 160 Municipality NO 345-7562, Sky View Building No 1, Property No 401, Floor 4, Dubai U.A.E.”.
But challenging the lower court’s decision, the Commission averred that Justice Oweibo erred in law when he struck out the suit.
Oyedepo contended that the immunity conferred on Bello against civil or criminal proceedings during his incumbency as governor does not extend to properties reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime traced to him.
He argued that the court erred and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it refused to bind itself with the decision of the Court of Appeal in EFCC V Fayose (2018) LPELR 44131 CA and the decision of the Supreme Court in Fawehinmi V IGP (2002)7 NWLR (PT767)606, on the proper interpretation of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution;
Section 308 provides immunity from trial for the President, Vice-President, Governor and Deputy Governor during the subsistence of their tenure.
The anti-graft agency further reasoned that the trial court erred in law when it struck out a preservation order of properties reasonably suspected to have been derived from proceeds of unlawful activities notwithstanding its findings that Bello failed to show the genuine origin of funds used to acquire the properties under the preservation order.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.