By Taiye Agbaje
Absence of Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, stalled former Chairperson, Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mrs. Ngozi Juliet Olejeme’s asset forfeiture case.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the court had, on July 1, granted an order of interim forfeiture in relation to 46 property, including houses and parcels of land, suspected to be owned by Olejeme.
The 46 property are said to be located in states like Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Abuja.
Justice Taiwo granted the order in a ruling on a motion ex-parte brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In a suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/538/2020 argued by the EFCC’s Counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, Taiwo ordered the commission to publish the order in a national daily to enable anyone who was interested in the affected property to show cause within 14 days why the assets should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge then fixed July 27 as the return date.
Although the matter could not come up on July 27, when the court sat on July 29, the NSITF claimed the ownership of the 46 property seized from the agency’s former chairman by EFCC.
The management of the agency, through its Counsel, Okereke Ezechi, appeared before the court to claim ownership of the property.
Ezechi, who filed a motion to that respect, urged the court to pass the property to NSITF should they be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
He said that NSITF was the principal victim of the alleged crimes purportedly committed by Olejeme, who served as the chairman of the agency’s management board between 2009 to 2015.
The lawyer stated that the property suspected to have been acquired through proceeds of crime, were allegedly acquired with funds stolen from the organisation.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, although EFCC’s counsel and other lawyers were in court, Justice Taiwo was absent.
The matter was second of the 12 cases scheduled on the cause list.
The court registrar informed that the judge, who sat during the annual vacation of the Federal High Court, had proceeded on leave.
It would be recalled that the Federal High Court annual vacation, which began on July 27, ended on Sept. 28.
The court, however, fixed Dec. 2 for hearing in the matter. (NAN)