A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, stopped the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from confiscating six properties traced to Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle.
Justice Inyang Ekwo cited Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which grants absolute immunity to serving governors from civil and criminal proceedings.
In suit FHC/ABJ/CS/709/22, the anti-graft agency sued Matawalle over the landed properties in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
The properties are Plot 729, Idu Industrial Layout; Plot 1327, Cadastral Zone AO5 and Plot 2934, Cadastral Zone AO6, both in Maitama.
Others are Plot 730, Cadastral Zone AO6 and Plot 28048, Cadastral Zone, both in Maitama; Plot 515, Cadastral Zone, BOO in Kukwaba.
The EFCC wants the Federal Government of Nigeria to take over the properties.
Justice Ekwo held that the commission lacked power to initiate any criminal proceedings against Matawalle while he’s governor.
The judge agreed with Ahmed Raji (SAN) who appeared for him that the criminal proceedings were an abuse of the court process.
On May 26, Ekwo issued an interim forfeiture order against the property in a ruling on EFCC’S ex-parte application.
The judge vacated the order based on the established ownership claim by the governor and the request for dismissal of the suit.
Ekwo, while vacating the interim order, agreed with Raji that the agency lacked locus standi to initiate a forfeiture demand.
”From the avalanche of evidence placed before the court, there is no contest or dispute on the ownership of the properties.
“And from the position of the law, especially Section 308 of the Constitution, EFCC has no other option than to wait till the end of tenure of office of the respondent.”
Justice Ekwo dismissed the legal action in its entirety and told the EFCC to wait till Matawalle leaves office.