By Onozure Dania
Lagos – The Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos has fixed the hearing of an appeal filed by a former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, against the temporary forfeiture of the sum of $5.8million, belonging to the Federal Government to November 3.
The suit, which was assigned to Justices John Ikyeh, Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo and Abraham Georgewill on July 5, was stalled at the last sitting on July 12 following the withdrawal of an unnamed member of the panel.
Justice Ikyeh, who presided over the appeal, at the last adjourned date had noted that three judges were required to form a quorum before an appeal could be heard.
He adjourned hearing till today.
“One of us is going to recuse himself from this case for personal reasons, so we are not complete. Two of us cannot form a quorum,” Justice Ikyeh said.
In law, the verb recuse means to remove someone from a position of judicial authority, either a judge or a member of a jury, who is deemed unacceptable to judge, usually because of some bias.
Mrs Jonathan’s appeal arose following an order obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last April 26, from the Federal High Court in Lagos, temporarily forfeiting the cash to the government.
The commission had told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who made the order, that the funds were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
It said the $5.7m was part of the $6,791,599.64 (about N2.1billion) which Mrs Jonathan allegedly directed her aides to pay into her account between February 8, 2013 and January 30, 2015, while her husband was President.
Mrs. Jonathan, the commission said, had earlier spent $949, 282.98 (about N296, 141,911) from the money.
It said she also withdrew another $100,000 from the account in April, leaving a balance of $5,731,173.55.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos had on April 26, in a ruling on an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) made the order.
The judge had also ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N2,421,953,522.78 found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account number 2022000760 in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited, which the commission said is linked to the ex- first lady.
Dissatisfied, with the ruling Patience Jonathan through her counsel Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) approached the the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling and also to ask that the order be vacated.
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday the new three man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Mohammed Lawal -Garba, announced Nimpar Yargata and Inyang Ogakwu, as other members of the panel.
However the Court granted a prayer by the former first lady seeking to amend her notice of appeal and file additional grounds of appeal.
The lead judge justice Lawal- Garba also directed the lawyer representing La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) to file separate notice of appeal for his client within 48 hours.
The order was sequal to the striking out of the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited from the main appeal filed by Mrs Jonathan.
The court had earlier granted leave to the company to appeal against the decision of the lower court.
Consequently the hearing of the two appeals was adjourned to November 3.
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