On Wednesday, a Federal High Court in Lagos dismissed an interim forfeiture order obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking to seize 14 properties linked to Yahaya Bello, the Governor of Kogi State. The properties are located in Lagos, Abuja, and the United Arab Emirates.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo, who presided over the case, held that Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution prohibits the institution of any criminal or civil case against a governor or the President.
The judge granted the temporary forfeiture order on February 22, following an ex parte motion filed by a counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN. The order directed the EFCC to publicize the order in two national dailies for any interested parties to show cause why the order should not be made absolute.
Governor Bello filed a notice of intention to oppose and an application seeking the vacation of the interim forfeiture order, through his lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, after the publication of the preservative order. The governor argued that the properties listed were not proceeds of an unlawful act, as they were acquired long before he was elected as Kogi State governor and could not have been acquired from Kogi State funds.
He also stated that by Section 308 of the constitution, the EFCC is prevented from instituting any civil or criminal suit against him. The governor also protested the legality in the filing of the suit by the EFCC on the ground that the case was in flagrant disobedience to a state High Court order, which restrained the EFCC from investigating any account of the Kogi State government pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.
Justice Oweibo struck out the suit for lack of jurisdiction, adding that given Section 308 of the Constitution, which provides immunity to a sitting governor from any civil/criminal prosecution.