Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court in Lagos has struck out the Federal Government’s suit seeking to recover and forfeit the sum of N70tn it alleged was stashed in 29 bank accounts by looters.
The judge stated that the Federal Government’s lawyers and the private lawyers which it subsequently gave a fiat, did not diligently prosecute the case.
The Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation/ Minister of Justice are the plaintiffs/applicants in the suit marked, FHC/L/CS/968/2021.
17 commercial banks and Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation were listed as defendants/respondents in the suit.
FG had in August 2021 obtained an interim order from Justice Tijani Ringim for the forfeiture of the N70tn.
The case was later transferred to Justice Lifu, who in 2022, vacated the interim order, following FG’s failure to meet the terms of the order.
Delivering judgment on the substantive suit on Tuesday, Justice Lifu held that since the vacation of the interim order “it has been back and forth, with various excuses, applications for adjournment at the instance of the plaintiffs/applicants counsel, Mohammed Ndarani (SAN).
“From all indications, the instant case has clearly lost its stance as the plaintiffs/applicants seem not to be interested in the matter any longer, having failed consistently to be present in court since December 9, 2021.
“The chambers of Femi Falana that just filed a Notice of Change of Counsel on the last adjourned date has suddenly withdrawn appearance today.”
The judge wondered that FG’s lawyers,from Ndarani to Falana “suddenly developed cold feet over this alleged public interest case”.
“Going through the originating process filed by Mohammed Ndarani, (SAN), which is no longer extant as the ex parte order was set aside on May 27, 2022, there is nothing left again for this court to adjudicate upon.
“In the circumstances of this case, therefore, the application of the learned counsel for NNPC, M. T. Danzaki, and Access Bank Plc, I. S. Etefia, succeeds.
“This case is hereby struck out for want of diligent prosecution and I make no order as to cost,” the judge held.