15th December, 2021
The Appeal Court in Abuja on Wednesday approved the final forfeiture to the Federal Government of $500,000 and N500m allegedly looted from the Zamfara state’s share of the Paris Club refunds.
The ruling set aside the judgment of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court Abuja, who rejected EFCC application for the final forfeiture of the money.
Justice Dimgba had on June 30, 2017 ordered the interim forfeiture of the monies following an ex parte application by the EFCC.
But the judge on November 17, 2017 refused the Commission’s application for an Order of final forfeiture to the Federal Government.
Citing contestation regarding the illicit origin of the money, the judge had ruled that it would be “an unjust, inequitable and irresponsible exercise” of his judicial powers under section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act to gloss over the claims and go ahead to make the final forfeiture order.
“I do not believe that this provision should be available where the absolute forfeiture of the funds or the funds itself are subject of a significant contest as it is in the circumstances of the present case,” the judge ruled.
Dissatisfied by the ruling, the EFCC approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment.
In a unanimous Judgment delivered by Justice S.J Adah on behalf of a panel of three justices, other being Justices A.A Adume and B.I Ghafai, the Court of Appeal nullified the judgment of Justice Dimgba.
Justice Adah held that the trial judge misconstrued section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006 and did not evaluate the facts brought by the appellants, that the funds are proceeds of illegality and criminally diverted from a legitimate source.
The judge noted that the money has become illegitimate and cannot be used to pay any legitimate contract for public services.
“The judgment of the lower court cannot stand and will never be allowed to stand,” the court ruled.