Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
A telecommunication firm, INT Towers Limited, has urged the Federal High Court in Abuja to discharge an order of temporary forfeiture of the sum of $158,185,154.65 placed on its bank account at the instance of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for Recovery of Public Property.
The firm, which deals in providing telecommunication infrastructure, alleged that the ex parte order was “improperly obtained.”
It added that the SPIPRPP’s application for order was dogged by “misrepresentation, deliberate falsehood, bad faith and/or suspension of material facts.”
The firm’s legal team, led by Prof Koyin Ajayi (SAN), also stated that the action “constitutes a gross abuse of process and an abuse of statutory power.”
Part of the alleged falsehood pointed out by the applicant in the SPIPRPP’s claim was that the account exhibited to back its request for the interim forfeiture order was not dollar but a naira-denominated account.
It added, “The statement of account with account number 2563000674 exhibited as Exhibit I to MK Affidavit is a naira denominated account and not a dollar denominated account.
“The balance sum in Exhibit I is N158,185,154.65 and not $158,185,154.65.
“The money in Exhibit I were represented to this honourable court to be in dollars whereas the money is actually in naira, this has led to an inflation of the actual deposit in the account.”
It also alleged that the account statement exhibited was not the one the SPIPRPP claimed was under investigation and for which the interim forfeiture order was obtained.
“The claimant exhibited a statement of account in respect of account number 2563000674 (marked Exhibit I to the MK Affidavit), an account entirely different from account number 2563000681 said to be under investigation,” an affidavit deposed to by the Manager, Dispute Resolution of INT Towers Limited, Daniel Ade-Peters, and filed in support of the company’s motion
Ade-Peters stated that the account number 2563000674 exhibited “does not belong to either the 1st respondent (International Towers Limited) and the 2nd respondent (INT Towers Nigeria Limited),” both of which the SPIPRPP named as the owners of the account in their ex parte application.
The applicant, INT Towers Limited, which claimed to be the actual owner of the account, was not joined as a respondent, but International Towers Limited and INT Towers Nigeria Limited, as well as the bank, Ecobank Plc, were joined instead.
The company (Int Towers Limited) stated that the firms named in the SPIPRPP’s ex parte application as the owner of the bank account targeted by the order —International Towers Limited and Int Towers Nigeria Limited — were not the owners of the account.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja had upon an ex parte application by the SPIPRPP issued an order for interim forfeiture of the sum of $158m in an account with Ecobank Plc.
The panel had named International Towers Limited, INT Towers Nigeria Limited and the Ecobank as the respondents to the exclusion of the applicant, INT Towers Limited, which had filed its application as an interested party to challenge the court’s order.
In a separate suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/453/2019, the company challenged the powers of the SPIPRPP to conduct investigations on the various offences it was embarking on.
It argued that by the provisions of sections 1, 6, 7, 18 and 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, sections 3, 6, 8, 9, 18 and 19 of the Corrupt Practices Act, and sections 15, 18 and 19 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, the Recovery of Public Property Act which establishes the SPIPRPP “has been impliedly repealed” as it “has run its course, is spent and/or obsolete.”
It also urged the court to declare the SPIPRPP’s request for its statement of account as a violation of its right to privacy guaranteed under Section 37 of the Constitution.
It urged the court to strike down sections 1(2) and 2(2) of the Recovery of Public Property Act for being unconstitutional, null and void.
It also asked the court to set aside the SPIPRPP’s letter of invitation dated October 31, 2018, with reference number, CR: 3000/SPIP/ABJ/T5/VOL. 2/280.
It sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the panel, its chairman, members, officers and others from “inviting/further inviting, arresting or detaining the plaintiff, its directors, shareholders, officers, employees, servants, agents, privies and any other person acting through or on behalf of the plaintiff pursuant to the provisions of the Recovery of Public Property Act.”
On June 6, Mr Oluseye Opasanya (SAN) led the plaintiff’s team while Eric Efere appeared for the defendant.
Justice Ojukwu adjourned hearing till September 23.