A Federal High Court Lagos, on Thursday, ordered the final forfeiture of the sum of 153m dollars linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke.
Justice Muslim Hassan issued the order while delivering judgment in a suit by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking a forfeiture of the funds as being proceeds of crime.
Recall that Justice Hassan had on Jan. 6, issued an interim order of forfeiture of the sum of 153.3 million dollars to the Federal Government, following an exparte application by EFCC seeking similar relief.
The EFCC had initiated an exparte application, seeking an interim order, for the temporary forfeiture of the sum to the FG, which it claims is linked to the ex-Minister.
Also joined is Mr. Dauda Lawal as respondent in the suit.
The court had also issued 14 days to any interested party to appear and prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the FG.
At the last adjourned date on Jan. 24, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo and Mr. Charles Adeogun, counsels representing the EFCC and the respondent (Lawal), had respectively argued their originating processes before the court.
Oyedepo had urged the court to make the interim order absolute and order a final forfeiture of the sums to the federal government.
He had also urged the court to order the forfeiture of other sums to which no claim had been laid.
In his argument, Adeogun (respondent’s counsel) urged the court to issue an order, directing a refund of the sum of N9.08billion to the respondent, on the grounds that same was obtained by coercion.
He argued that before such forfeiture orders can be made, two essential elements must be satisfied namely: “that the property in question is unclaimed, and that such property or funds forms proceeds of an unlawful act.
He had urged the court to order a refund of the sum of N9.08 billion to the second respondent on the grounds that same was obtained by coercion.
Delivering his judgment on Thursday, Justice Hassan ordered a final forfeiture of the unclaimed sum of N23, 426, 300.00 billion and 5 million United States dollars to the Federal government.
Hassan held: “I hereby make an order pursuant to section 17 of the Advanced fee fraud and other fraud related offences Act 2016, for final forfeiture of the unclaimed sum of N23, 426, 300.000.00 billion and 5 million United States dollars to the Federal government finally.
“In respect of the second respondent learned counsel Mr. Charles Adeogun, informed the court that the second respondent filed a counter affidavit on why the sum of N9.08 billion should not be forfeited.
“I have carefully examined the affidavit evidence before the court and I find that the second respondent was duly cautioned in English language before his statement was taken and so, I hold that same was taken without any evidence of inducement.
“On the whole I am satisfied that all the conditions stated in section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Related offence Act, was duly fulfilled by the applicant.
“I accordingly make the following orders: An order for the final forfeiture of the sum of N23, 426, 300.000.00 billion being unclaimed property, to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“An order of final forfeiture is also made for the sum of N9.08 billion recovered from the second respondent, to the federal government of Nigeria, this is my judgment,” he said
Before judgment, Adeogun had informed the court of two of his pending motions filed on Feb. 3, first, seeking an abridgement of time and secondly for leave to file further affidavits to his counter affidavit.
He had informed the court that parties were exploring means of reaching amicable settlement in the matter.
He described it as a common sense approach to resolving the matter; adding that the sum recovered from the second respondent and sort to be finally forfeited, were gathered from friends and relatives.
He had added that the facts were not made available to the court at the last adjourned date, because the instruments with which the funds were paid, were with the commission.
In response Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo informed the court that he was not privy to such settlement options, adding that he was only sent to do the “bidding” of his employers.
He said: “If the intention of the respondent is to keep the application in the court’s file in abeyance I will then pray the court to strike out the applications relying on the authorities of SIEC Ekiti State vs NCP, Newswatch communication Ltd vs Attah and Manuel vs Briggs.
“The applications the counsels seek to put in abeyance in sum is intended to arrest the court’s judgment fixed for today.
“In all these authorises, the court had held that it is alien for the court to allow its judgment to be arrested once reserved.
“It is just like a pregnant woman in the delivery room, getting an invitation to attend a wedding ceremony; in essence, the court is carrying a pregnancy, and so, no party should be allowed to terminate it.
“The court had given parties adequate time for anyone to complain of rights infringement and so I urge the court to strike out the application so that the coast can be clear to deliver judgment.”
The trial judge in a short ruling, allowed the second respondent’s counsel (Adeogun) to move his application.
After Adeogun had moved the application, the court in a short ruling had dismissed the application and proceeded with delivering its judgment.