Nigeria’s ex-Aviation Minister, Senator Stella Oduah has won the legal battle against the country’s main anti-graft agency as the federal court gave it final verdict on the forfeiture of her properties.
Giving the final verdict and reversal of an earlier order it made on the interim forfeiture on October 18, 2019, Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the EFCC failed to establish a link between the assets and the ex-Minister.
The judge noted that the counter-affidavit, filed for the EFCC by its lawyer, O. I. Uket, to rebut the companies’ claims, was filed out of time without first seeking the court’s leave for an extension of time to file.
He further noted that rather than apply to the Court for leave to file his counter-affidavit out of time, the EFCC’s lawyer proceeded to pay a default fee of N3,000 without the court’s consent.
“The right thing to do was for the applicant to apply for extension of time, any payment of default fees made by the applicant, without first applying for an extension of time, is unlawful, he took the law into his hands.“The consequences of filing a process, without the leave of court to file out of time, is that the process is incompetent and liable to be struck out.
“The counter-affidavit is struck out with all the processes filed along with it. The implication is that there is no counter-affidavit.” the judge said.
Justice Ekwo proceeded to consider the case of the respondents – Crystal Television Ltd and the other affected entities – and held that “they have established the fact of ownership of the assets” and that they have no link with the ex-Minister.
The judge further held that the respondents have shown cause why the prayer by the EFCC, that the order of interim forfeiture made on October 18, 2019, be made permanent, should not be granted.
The EFCC had applied for the interim forfeiture order in furtherance of its investigation of an allegation that Oduah diverted part of the N9.5 billion fund meant for the provision security equipment in some airports during her tenure as Aviation Minister.