Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of a Federal High Court, Lagos, today, declared that an interim order attaching N1.9 billion domiciled in the Unity Bank’s account of a businesswoman, Hajiya Bola Shagaya, was validly secured by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Consequently, Justice Oguntoyinbo, while delivering judgment on the suit, dismissed Shagaya’s against the EFCC, for lacking in merit and abuse of court processes.
The EFCC had on December 29, 2016, secured an interim order attaching the money in Shagaya’s account from Justice Muslim Hassan of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
Justice Hassan had pronounced that the order was to last pending conclusion of investigations by the EFCC.
Not satisfied with Justice Hassan’s decision, Shagaya, through her lawyer filed a motion seeking to unfreeze the account claiming that the EFCC’s action violates her rights to own property. She said she was never afforded the opportunity before the order was secured.
However, delivering judgement on the matter on Thursday, Justice Oguntoyinbo faulted Shagaya’s claims she was not availed the opportunity to defend herself before the order was secured.
According to the judge, the order was made through an ex-parte motion and as such there was no way the court would have listen to her own side of the story.
“The interim order was made based on an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). An ex-parte application has no respondent and the court is not expected to hear from the other party. Even when the other party is around, it can only be seen and not heard. Therefore, the failure of Justice Hassan to hear the applicant cannot invalidate the order.
“The granting of the interim order of attachment is not unconstitutional and does not constitute an infringement on the applicant’s rights to own property”, the judge held.
Justice Oguntoyinbo further noted that the failure of the applicant to controvert an averment contained in the the counter-affidavit of the EFCC regarding her refusal to honour invitation was fatal to her case.
The judge said the claim by the applicant that the order was made in perpetuity does not hold water because there was no evidence that the EFCC has either concluded its investigation of the matter or file any charge against the applicant.
Justice Oguntoyinbo said: “It is erroneous to claim that the interim order has metamorphosed into a permanent one or in perpetuity because it was to last until the conclusion of investigation by the respondent (EFCC). There was no evidence to show that the respondent has stopped investigating the property or has concluded investigation”.
In conclusion, Justice Oguntoyinbo held that Shagaya’s application lacked merit and such is consequently dismissed.
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