Justice Mojisola Dada of a Special Offences Court, sitting in Ikeja, has dismissed the application filed by a property firm, Kasmal Properties Limited and four others against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over a land measuring 50.080 hectares situated at Ogombo Village in Eti-Osa Local Government Area.
Aside Kasmal Properties Limited, others are; Kasmal International Service Limited, Courtleigh Investment Limited, Pennek Nigeria Limited and Taiwo Shote as first to fifth Respondents / Applicants, whose application was dismissed.
Many of the lands being sold and marketed by Kasmal Properties Limited and Kasmal International Service Limited, two companies promoted by Late Prince Buruji Kashamu and his acolyte of real estate companies, include Pennek Estate, Reservile Estate By Coutleigh Investment Limited; Angle Blue Estate By Atco Homes; Pipi Island Estate By Big C Real Estate Property Limited; Signature By Pwan Homes; Dream City By Revolution Plus; Lekki Pride 2 By Zylus Homes and other along Ogombo Road Ajah from Abraham Adesanya are now interimly forfeited to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, pending investigation and arraignment of accused persons, as trespassers have being warned to keep off.
The EFCC had in a suit marked No: ID/5579GCM/2022 obtained a temporary ex-parte order against the five respondents (companies and Shote), over land measuring 50.080 hectares at Ogombo Village in Eti-Osa, which the commission alleged is under investigation in respect of a suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/912/2019.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the landed property was subject matter in the suit, pending in Abuja and also in Lagos in a suit No: LD/771/2008 between Adeniran Adedokun Ventures Nigeria Limited & others against Pentagon Real Estate Investment Limited & others, wherein the respondents / applicants and Adedokun ventures, the petition at whose instance EFCC is acted are adverse parties.
The five respondents therefore approached the Court, sought for an order to vacate or stay of execution of the ex-parte interim forfeiture order made against them.
Aside setting aside the exparte interim order granted against them, they want the Court to strike out the suit for being an abuse of Court.
In their seven grounds of application, the respondents stated that dispute on title land and alleged land grabbing are beyond the investigation and prosecutorial power of the EFCC.
They submitted that there was misrepresentation of material facts by the EFCC, non disclosure of the pendency of the two suits and well as no urgency warranting the grant of exparte interim forfeiture order in May 22 on account of petition received by EFCC in January 2019.
However, Justice Dada, in her ruling, said the order of the Federal High Court is not binding on the Court as rightly argued by the applicant / respondent, adding that it does not restrict the applicant / respondent from taking the step it took in obtaining the Interim forfeiture order being complained against.
“The allegation of the deponent to the Counter-Affidavits, Johnson Akpan that there are several titles registered in the Land Registry, Alausa on this same land is not denied by any of the respondents / applicants. Rather, it was confirmed by them especially, the 5th respondent / applicant who referred to and listed 11 different Deeds of Assignment on the same subject matter.”
The Court further held that, “It is also obvious that no arrest has been made against any of the respondents / applicants, with the order of the Federal High Court, the question is, should this be sufficient reason to handicap the applicant / respondent from taking the step it took where public interest is of utmost importance. As stated by the 5th respondent/applicant, 11 Deeds of Assignment on the same subject-matter calls for drastic measures.
“Section 26 of the EFCC Act, 2004 (1) (a) provides that, “Any property subject to forfeiture under this Act may be seized by the Commission when the seizure is incidental to an arrest or search…”
After citing plethora of decided cases by Lawyer to the anti-graft agency, Babatunde Sonoiki, the Judge held that EFCC power is not limited to arrest.
“The power is therefore not limited to arrest but when it is carrying out or conducting any form of search. What the Commission is doing can best be described as conducting a search. Of more importance force of Law is Section 44 (2) (k) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which permits the temporary taking of possession of property for the purpose of any examination, investigation or enquiry.
“This alone fortified by the series of claims and disputes over the land, subject-matter of this suit with a very high level of public interest, is good reason for the interim Forfeiture Order sought for and obtained from this Court.
“Therefore, I find no merit in any of the applications of the respondents / applicants and same are hereby dismissed.I so hold.”