The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday ordered investigation into the alleged demolition of an Abuja property linked to former First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba gave the directive following complaints by counsel to Mrs. Jonathan, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) that properties belonging to a group – A. Aruera Reachout Foundation/Women For Change and Development Initiative, linked to his client were demolished by a government agency. The demolition took place while the suit in respect of the properties was still pending before Justice John Tsoho of the same Federal High Court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had earlier filed an ex-parte application before the court for temporary forfeiture of properties belonging to Mrs. Jonathan, situated at plot 1758, Cadastral Zone, B06 Mabushi and plot 1350, Cadastral Zone, A00 Central Business District, Abuja.
Yesterday’s sitting was to enable the court hear the preliminary objection filed by Ozekhome, challenging jurisdiction of the court to entertain an ex-parte motion brought by the EFCC. But before moving his preliminary objection, Ozekhome informed the court that the buildings, which were the subject matter of litigation, had been demolished.
He further told the court that the properties were demolished by the Federal Government, whose agent, the EFCC, had come to court seeking an interim forfeiture of the property.
“My Lord, we are in a democracy, not dictatorship, gerontocracy, absolutism, oligarchy, despotism, fascism or anarchy. We are operating a democracy, which was defined in 1873 by Abraham Lincoln,” he told the judge.
Ozekhome said it was unfortunate that the government had resorted to self help rather than allow the court to resolve issues brought before it.
To substantiate his claims, Ozekhome presented envelopes containing video recordings, pictures of the demolition and some national dailies which he said contained reports of the demolition.
When asked by the court if he was aware of the demolition, counsel to EFCC, Benjamin Manji denied knowledge of such development.
Manji told the court that he was hearing for the first time that the property, the subject matter of the suit, had been demolished.
“If that is true, it is certainly not by us. Our mandate is clear, it does not include demolition. We need to confirm if the property is still in existence before we can proceed with our application for temporary forfeiture,” he stated.
Ozekhome agreed that the state of the property be ascertained before going further with the case. He said he would also utilise the time to file a proper affidavit, exhibiting the video recording, pictures and newspaper publications on the demolition.
Justice Dimgba held: “I will adjourn for the claim that the property has been demolished to be ascertained to enable the court know what proper steps to be taken.”
He consequently adjourned till February 26 for the report of the probe to be ready and for possible hearing on the applications filed by parties.