The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday set aside the judgment of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which refused the final forfeiture application of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in respect of the sums of $500,000 and N500 million allegedly looted from the Zamfara State’s share of the Paris Club refunds made by the Federal Government to the 36 states.
Justice Dimgba had on June 30, 2017, ordered the interim forfeiture of the monies following an ex parte application by the EFCC. But the judge on November 17, 2017, refused the Commission’s application for an Order of final forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
Citing contestation regarding the illicit origin of the money, the judge had ruled that it would be“an unjust, inequitable and irresponsible exercise” of his judicial powers under section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act to gloss over the claims and go ahead to make the final forfeiture order.
“I do not believe that this provision should be available where the absolute forfeiture of the funds or the funds itself are subject of a significant contest as it is in the circumstances of the present case,” the judge had ruled.
Dissatisfied by the ruling, the EFCC approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice S.J. Adah on behalf of a panel of three justices, others being Justices A.A. Adume and B.I. Ghafai, the Court of Appeal nullified the judgment of Justice Dimgba.
Justice Adah held that the trial judge misconstrued section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006 and did not evaluate the facts brought by the appellants that the funds are proceeds of illegality and criminally diverted from a legitimate source.
The judge noted that the money has become illegitimate and cannot be used to pay any legitimate contract for public services.
“The judgment of the lower court cannot stand and will never be allowed to stand,” the court ruled.