REVEALED: FG’s panel has no powers to prosecute, seize property – Appeal court

By Sageer Kabeer

The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) has no powers to prosecute or seize property, Court of Appeal has ruled Monday.

The court decision followed an appeal by the Tumsah brothers: Ibrahim and Tijjani challenging the refusal of an FCT High Court to set aside the ex-parte order made on December 6, 2017 seizing their properties.

In a unanimous judgement delivered on Monday, the five-member panel of judges presided by Justice Husseini Mukhtar held that the SPIP has no power to apply for forfeiture of properties.

The appellate court said under Section 4(4) of the Recovery of Properties Special Provisions Act, the SPIP should report its findings and conclusions to the Head of the Federal Republic, who will in turn submit same to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for action

The court ruled that the trial court arrived at its decision to grant the ex-parte application forfeiting the properties based on sentiment when it knew that it lacked the jurisdiction to make such order.

“It is very important that due process be followed in this corruption cases, and indeed in all other matters. The Special Investigation Panel having been set up under the Recovery of Properties Special Provisions Act and thus being a creation of statutes, its powers are indeed circumscribed by the statutes creating it,” the court said.

The SPIP led by the Special Adviser to the President on Anti-corruption, Okoi Obono-Obla, had in December, 2017 through an ex-parte seized 86 cars from the Ibrahim Tumsah, a Director of Finance and Accounts in the Ministry of Works and Housing, and Tijani Tumsah.

Also seized were houses located at No 34 Euphrates Street, Wuse 2, Abuja; No 5 Sirasso Crescent, Wuse Zone 7, Abuja; a quarry plant at Kuje, Abuja; No 27 Cairo Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja; and No 22 Igbani Street, Jabi, Abuja.

The applicants counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), had in the appeal raised three main issues thus: that the suit for the forfeiture of the properties was not properly constituted by the SPIP, that the panel could not rely on the EFCC Act to make the application for forfeiture, and that the lower court was wrong when it refused to set aside the Interim forfeiture.