Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal has explained why it refused to unfreeze the Zenith Bank account of a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike (retd), who is being prosecuted for allegedly using his then office to confer corrupt or unfair advantage on himself.
The Court of Appeal had delivered a summary of the ruling on December 7, but our correspondent on Sunday sighted a copy of the full ruling detailing the reasons Umezulike’s appeal against the freezing order was dismissed.
A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, unanimously agreed with the decision of Justice A.M. Liman of the Federal High Court in Enugu that there was no legal basis to grant the prayer sought by the former Chief Judge.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had, through an ex parte application, obtained the order freezing Umezulike’s account from the Federal High Court in Enugu on February 23, 2017, but later charged and subsequently arraigned him before the High Court of Enugu State on July 4, 2017.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that the Zenith Bank account was bearing N50m connected with the proceeds of the crime for which it was prosecuting the former Chief Judge.
Umezulike had, later, applied to the Federal High Court, asking for an order setting aside the freezing order. But Justice Liman, on June 2, 2017, dismissed the application.
Through his counsel, Prof. Agu Agu, Umezulike later filed an appeal against the June 2, 2017 decision of the Federal High Court.
The EFCC, through its counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, had opposed the appeal.
But in dismissing the appeal, Justice Ogunwumiju who delivered the lead ruling of the Court of Appeal, agreed with Justice Liman who had held that “where a freezing order is made by one court, and a trial is instituted in another court”, the court which originally granted the freezing order “may lose the power to review its earlier order.”
The Federal High Court had added that “but the court trying the charge may be entitled, in appropriate cases, to review the terms of the freezing order.”
Agreeing, Justice Ogunwumiju held that although the order of the Enugu Division of the Federal High Court, delivered on February 23, 2017, had lapsed after 60 days, Umezulike could only file any “necessary application” before the High Court of Enugu State where he is being prosecuted.
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