The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Monday, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to immediately release the $9.8 million belonging to the former Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu, being held by the anti-graft agency despite an earlier judgment ordering the release of the money.
The court said the money must be deposited with the Chief Registrar of the court, in the interest of justice.
Yakubu had approached the court seeking an order compelling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and two other defendants to release his money.
Yakubu in April 2023 sued the EFCC, Central Bank of Nigeria and Guaranty Trust Bank for failing to release the money after a court acquitted him of money laundering charges filed against him by the anti-graft agency.
The EFCC, Central Bank of Nigeria and Guaranty Trust Bank were listed as co-defendants in the case.
This newspaper reported that Justice A.R Mohammed of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on March 31, 2022, had quashed the money laundering charges instituted against Yakubu after the EFCC discovered $9, 772, 800 (9.7 million dollars) and £74, 000 from an apartment linked to him in 2017.
The EFCC had urged Justice A.R Mohammed to convict Yakubu.
But his lawyer, Ahmed Raji SAN, asked the court to dismiss the EFCC’s case for lacking in merit.
Yakubu also testified before the judge that the monies found in his house were gifts from friends and associates.
The judge had agreed with the defendant’s submissions; acquitted him and ordered the release of his money.
But Yakubu’s lawyer approached another court presided by Justice Inyang Ekwo over the non-release of the money as directed by the other court.
By way of originating summons, he had urged the court to order the release of his money or in the alternative, direct that the money be deposited with the FHC registrar pending the determination of the suit.
But the EFCC, through its lawyer, Faruk Abdullah, raised an objection to the application, saying appeals have been entered against the subsisting trial court judgment.
The EFCC also contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Passing his judgement on Monday, Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed the preliminary objection of the EFCC, saying the arguments of the respondents contradicted themselves and called to question the whereabouts of the money.
Ekwo held it would be in the interest of justice if the sum is kept in a neutral custody pending the conclusion of proceedings, in line with rules of court
Ekwo held that based on the contradictory arguments of the respondents about on whose custody the money was domiciled, the justice of the case demands that they must produce the money.
“The plaintiff has made a compelling case and it succeeds and I so hold.
“An order is hereby made directing the first and second defendant to immediately transfer $9.8 million into the account under the control of the Chief Registrar of this court,” the judge held.