A Lagos court has vacated an order that allowed the anti-graft agency, EFCC, claim ownership of a disputed property.
Justice Aishat Opesanwo of the Lagos High Court set aside the interim order of forfeiture that handed the building belonging to Jonathan Udeagbala to the EFCC in August 2012.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Lagos based lawyer and human rights activist, was charged to court in May this year for allegedly dealing in the property.
Mr. Adegboruwa insisted he committed no offence in law, but only assisted two business partners broker a settlement arising from a telecoms transaction.
He said the EFCC was only taking advantage of the anti-corruption war of the Buhari regime to persecute him.
In addition to his constant criticisms of the federal government, Mr. Adegboruwa is also a defence counsel in the case of Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) and the cousin of the former President Goodluck Jonathan, Azibaola Robert.
In 2012, Mr. Udeagbala, was arraigned before the High Court of Lagos State, for allegedly issuing dud cheques in favour of his business partner, Leonard Okafor.
During the trial, the parties met and decided to resolve the matter amicably by leasing out Mr. Udeagbala’s personal house in Nicon Town, Lekki, Lagos.
Mr. Adegboruwa was appointed to supervise the settlement.
On December 17, 2015, the High Court of Lagos State, dismissed the criminal case against Mr. Udeagbala, based upon the settlement brokered by the parties, effectively ending the entire criminal proceedings and all other cases connected with it.
Mr. Adegboruwa said he was never aware of any interim order of forfeiture on the private property.
A day after Mr. Adegboruwa appeared in court in the case of Mr. Azibaola against the EFCC, a criminal charge was filed against him at the Federal High Court, by the EFCC.
He was arrested on May 9, for allegedly dealing in property subject of an order of forfeiture.
He was arraigned in court three days later and granted bail.
In the meantime, Mr Udeagbala filed an application dated January 21 before the High Court of Lagos State, to discharge the interim order of forfeiture, since the criminal charge upon which it was anchored had been dismissed.
The EFCC filed a counter-affidavit to the said application dated June 24, arguing that it had filed an appeal against the order of December 17, 2015 which dismissed the main criminal charge.
On July 4, when the court took arguments from counsel to the parties, Mr Adegboruwa appeared for Mr Udeagbala, whilst M.A. Anma appeared for the EFCC.
On September 22, Mr. Adegboruwa appeared for Mr. Udeagbala while M.S. Usman appeared for the EFCC.
In its ruling on the application to set aside the interim order of forfeiture, Justice Opesanwo held that once another had dismissed the main criminal charge on December 17, 2016, the interim order of forfeiture could not stand and that she could not sit on appeal against the order which dismissed the case.
The court held further that it was left for the EFCC to appeal against the said order, if it was dissatisfied with it and not to seek to hold on to an interim order that was granted since 2012.
The court rejected the argument of the EFCC that an appeal had been filed against the order dismissing the criminal charge. The court said no evidence of such appeal was produced before it.
The court discharged the interim order of forfeiture, holding that as from December 17, 2015, when the criminal charge was dismissed by the Court, the order of interim forfeiture had ceased to be valid in law.
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