Court Orders Final Forfeiture Of $16,500 USD, N127m ‘Stolen’ NIMASA Funds

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OrijoReporter.com, Cyril Ogunna
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Justice Kehinde Ogundare of a Lagos Federal High Court, has ordered final forfeiture of the sum of $16, 500, 000 USD and N127 million, to the Federal government of Nigeria, fraudulently diverted from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Justice Ogundare finally forfeited the monies, while granting an application for such orders, which was filed and moved by an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) lawyer, Sulaiman I. Sulaiman, today.

The monies, according to the EFCC, were said to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

The judge had May 23, 2024, ordered the interim forfeiture of the monies, while granting an Exparte motion, brought before the court pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14. 2006; and Section 44 (2)(B) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended).

The court l, after forfeited the monies in the interim on May 23, 2024, had directed the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper, to show cause, while the monies should not be finally forfeited.

However, at the resumed hearing of the final forfeiture of the money today, the EFCC lawyer, Suleiman I Suleiman, informed the court that “pursuant to your lordship order made on May 23, 2024, that we should publish the order. The publication of the order was made on June 6, 2024, of Punch newspaper.

“The said application is supported by 22 paragraphs deposed to by Oghare Ogbole, and investigator with the EFCC.

“The application is accompanying with two exhibits, the Interim order of the court and Punch publication of June 26, 2024. And It’s supported with written address.

“We most respectively adopt same and urge the court to grant the relief sought.”

Justice Ogundare after listening to the EFCC lawyer held that “order granted as prayed.”

The EFCC in the affidavit support of the application made the followings: “that on the 2nd October, 2013, the management of NIMASA under the leadership of Dr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi vide letter referenced: NIMASA 2007/DG/NSA/2013/006 dated 2/10/13, requested for the release of the sum of N1,123,400 billion, for the implementation of International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) projects.

“That on the 4th day of November, 2013, the then President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, through the National Security Adviser (NSA) approved the requested sum of N1,123,400 billion. And that upon the release of the first tranche in the sum of N1, 123, 400 billion, an account No. 0060559139, domiciled in Access Bank was opened on 03/1/14, in which Captain Bala Ezekiel Agaba, the Chairman of the ISPS Committee/Executive Director, NIMASA, Mr. Victor I. Onuzurike and Mr. Dele T, Ejekukor are signatories.

“That no sooner had the money hit the Committee’s account, one Mr. Uche Obilor, a close associate of the chairman of the committee, Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba received that total sum of N437,726,666.66 million, through his company known as Seabulk Offshore Operator Limited with account number 005326440 domiciled in Access Bank.

“That the said Mr. Uche Obilor equally received another whopping sum of N402,480 million, through his company Southern Offshore Limited with Zenith Bank Plc., account number 1013224100. And that also, the said Mr. Uche Obilor used his company known as Ace Prothesis Limited to receive the total sum of N66,800 million, through its account number 1012583949, domiciled in Zenith Bank Pic.,

“That out of the N437,726,666.66 million, paid to Seabulk Offshore Operator Limited, the total sum of N187 million, was transferred to Usaini Sabo on 06/03/2014, 10/06/2014, 12/06/2014 and 09/07/2014, who in turn converted same to US Dollars and handed them over to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba.

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“That from the said sum paid to Seabulk Offshore Operator Limited, the total sum of N67 million, was on the 23rd July, 2014, paid to Kofar Fada Limited, who also converted the money to US Dollars and handed over same to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba. And that the sum of N66,800 million, received by Uche Obilor through his company Ace Prothesis Limited from NIMASA was equally converted to personal use without rendering any service to the agency.

“That from the sum of N402, 480 million, received by Uche Obilor through his company Southern Offshore Limited from NIMASA, the total sum of N268 million, was paid to one Usaini Sabo, who converted the said sum to US Dollars and handed same over to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba.

“That from the sum of N402, 480 million, received from NIMASA by Mr. Uche Obilor through his company Southern Offshore Limited, the total sum of N103, 100 million, was equally transferred to Haji Kawu Investment Bureau De Change and Lekay Leads Ventures Limited, which sums were equally converted to US Dollars and handed over to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba.

“That the various sums of money transferred to the companies of Mr. Uche Obilor from the treasury of NIMASA were fraudulent in that these companies neither rendered any service nor supply goods to the agency. Rather, the funds were largely converted to Dollars for personal use and the remaining retained by Mr. Uche Obilor.

“That during the course of investigation, the total sum of $16,500 USD cash, was recovered by the Commission, part of the funds diverted from the treasury of NIMASA. And that for using his companies as mentioned above, Mr. Uche Obilor, upon invitation to the Commission during the course of investigation agreed to return the sum of N118 million, admittedly received and retained by his companies from the funds fraudulently converted from the treasury of NIMASA.

“That Mr. Uche Obilor voluntarily raised drafts through First City Monument Bank in the name of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which sums are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.

“That the funds sought to be forfeited are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful act of diversion of funds from the treasury of NIMASA, through Mr. Uche Obilor, his companies and other cronies.

“That I know as a fact that Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba, the then Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development of NIMASA was convicted, sentenced by this Honourable Court, per Buba, J (rtd) and subsequently granted pardon by the Council of State.

“That in view of the findings in preceding paragraphs and upon a thorough analysis of the evidence on record, this Honourable Court on the 23 day of May, 2024 made an interim order of forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria in favour of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) the assets sought to be forfeited.

“That I know as a fact and verily believe that this Honourable Court on the said 23 day of May, 2024 also directed the Applicant herein to publish in any national daily the said interim order of forfeiture to enable any interested party appear before the Court to show cause why the assets should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, in favour of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

“That in compliance with the order of this Honourable Court, the Applicant herein published in The Punch newspaper of 6th June, 2024, the interim order of this Honourable Court.

“That I also know as a fact and verily believe that notwithstanding the Order of this Honourable Court directing any interested party to appear and show cause why the assets sought to be forfeited should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria in favour of NIMASA, no person or party had served any affidavit showing cause on the Applicant herein.

“That this Honourable Court has the requisite power and jurisdiction to grant this application. And that it is in the best interest of Justice to hear and determine this application.”

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