By Kenneth Atavti
Federal High Court in Lagos has voided the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 for being “an invalid statutory instrument.”
The court nullified all sales and disposals of assets made by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, SAN under the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019.
It held that the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 were “ultra vires the office and powers” of the AGF.
Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa made the order in suit FHC/L/CS/40/2021 filed by the plaintiff – Incorporated Trustees of HEDA Resource Centre – against the AGF as the sole defendant.
The AGF on November 9, 2020, inaugurated the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the disposal of assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
This, according to the Minister, was in accordance with the president’s directive in October 2018 following recommendations of the Presidential Audit Committee on Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets and a need for efficient management of the assets.
But HEDA, through its counsel, Omotayo Olatubosun, challenged the AGF’s power to set up the committee.
It argued that the Regulations conflicted with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administrative Act, 2015, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act, 2004 and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act (ICPC), 2000, among others, on the matter of disposal of final forfeited assets.
The plaintiff sought nine reliefs, including the nullification of all disposals of assets by the AGF’s Committee.
In its judgment, the court dismissed the AGF’s preliminary objection argued by its counsel, Tolu Mokunolu, and granted all of HEDA’s reliefs as prayed on the motion paper.