The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, declined to grant the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s request to dismiss a motion asking the court for an extension of time in a case involving Abdulrasheed Maina, ex-Chairman, Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT).
Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo struck out the EFCC’s prayer on the ground that the defendants in the suit were not served with the hearing notice.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the court had, on Oct. 22, 2019, granted an interim forfeiture order of 23 assets linked to Maina, following a motion filed by counsel to the EFCC, Mohammed Abubakar.
EFCC had said that the property (houses, estates and companies) were allegedly acquired through corrupt practices of Maina and his associates.
Justice Giwa-Ogunbajo had also ordered that the assets be placed on newspaper publications for 14 days “for interested parties to show cause why a final order of forfeiture to the Federal Government of the assets and properties should not be made.”
However, Maina (1st defendant) and others had, on March 5, after the expiration of the 14 days, filed applications to show cause why the final forfeiture order should not be made.
Other interested applicants include Laila Maina (2nd defendant), Bimatec Nigeria Ltd (3rd defendant); Faisal Maina , Abdullahi Aliu and Yagaji Aliu (all as 4th defendant) and Estate of Late Alhaji M. Usman (5th defendant).
NAN recalls that the applicants, through their lawyers, Evelyn Dele and Anayo Adide, had filed an application for extension of time on the interim order.
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In her argument, Maina’s lawyer, Dele, had argued that her client was in detention when the forfeiture order was granted and that by the time he got the information in the dailies, the 14-day period had elapsed.
Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo, in her ruling, had granted the motion for the extension of time regarding forfeiture of the assets linked to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants.
The judge, however, struck out the 5th defendant’s application because the process was filed in the name of estate of late Alhaji Usman.
She upheld the EFCC’s argument that the estate of a deceased person had no legal capacity to file an action before the court.
Giwa-Ogunbanjo then adjourned till April 1 to hear the substantive matters, but the case could not come up due to the lockdown, following the coronavirus outbreak.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, the EFCC counsel, Halima Alhaji-Shehu, informed the court that there was another motion for extension of time of the earlier order for interested parties to show cause dated Dec. 2 and filed Dec. 3 by one of the claimants, Uwani Alhaji Usman, on behalf of the Estate of late Alhaji Usman.
The lawyer, who reminded the judge that the first application by the claimant was rejected by the court, urged Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo to strike out the second motion since the defendants failed to appear in court.
However, Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo turned down the anti-graft agency’s request on the grounds that the defendants were not served with the hearing notice and as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It will not serve justice to strike out this application today because of the issue of coronavirus.
“We have to give them benefit of doubt why they were not in court because everybody knows there is still lockdown.
“Besides, they were not even served with the hearing notice, so why should I strike it out?” she said.
The judge, who adjourned the matter until June 26, ordered that the defendants should be served with hearing notices.
Vanguard Nigeria News