Court stops EFCC from confiscating Matawalle’s Abuja property
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been restrained from confiscating six property traced to Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle.
A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, gave the order yesterday.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, hinged the order on Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which grants absolute immunity to serving governors from civil and criminal proceedings.
The EFCC, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/709/22 had sued the owner of the six landed property.
The property include Plot 729, Idu Industrial Layout; Plot 1327, Cadastral Zone AO5, Maitama District; Plot 2934, Cadastral Zone, AO6, Maitama District and Plot 730, Cadastral Zone, Abuja.
Others are Plot 28048, Cadastral Zone, Maitama District, and Plot 515, Cadastral Zone, BOO, Kukwaba District.
The EFCC, in the suit, sought forfeiture of the six property to the Federal Government.
Delivering judgment, Justice Ekwo held that the anti-graft agency lacked power to initiate any criminal proceedings against Matawalle while in office as governor.
The judge agreed with Ahmed Raji, SAN, who appeared for Matawalle, that the criminal proceedings activated against the governor by EFCC was an abuse of court process in view of his insulation from criminal trial by immunity law.
Ekwo had, on May 26, issued an interim forfeiture order against the property in a ruling on EFCC’S ex-parte application, he however vacated the order based on the established ownership claim by the governor and the request for dismissal of the suit.
The judge, while vacating the interim order agreed with Raji that the anti-graft agency lacked locus standi to initiate the suit for the forfeiture of the property of a serving governor.
From the avalanche of evidence placed before the court,, there is no contest or dispute on the ownership of the properties.
And from the position of the law, especially Section 308 of the Constitution, EFCC has no other option than to wait till the end of tenure of office of the respondent.
“The owner of the properties, having shown up and found to be a serving governor, protected by Section 308, EFCC’S suit is no longer sanctioned by law and any action, not sanctioned by law, is an abuse of court process,” he said.
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