The Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Justice Ridwan Aikawa presiding, has ordered the final forfeiture of N449,597,000 discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a shop located at Legico Shopping Plaza on Victoria Island, Lagos.
Saharareporters gathered that the court order, given on Friday, was a sequel to the temporary forfeiture of the cash discovered at Number LS64 of the shopping plaza on April 19, 2017.
Justice Aikawa also instructed the anti-graft agency to advertise the order in a national newspaper and gave 14 days ultimatum for any interested party to appear in court to give reasons why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The owner of the shop which operated as Bureau de Change, Mohammed Tauheed, had confessed to EFCC that the cash was handed to him by a serving government official, although he did not disclose the official’s identity after agreeing to voluntarily forfeit the money to the government.
Counsel to the EFCC, Idris Mohammed, told the judge that the interim order of April 19, 2017 had been advertised in a national newspaper on May 11, 2017 with a view to notifying Tauheed and other interested parties.
“Aside from the newspaper publication, Tauheed was also served with the motion on notice,” the counsel prayed while urging the judge to order the final forfeiture of the money as neither Tauheed nor anyone else had claimed ownership.
In his ruling on the final forfeiture, Justice Aikawa said: "I have perused the motion. As far as my records show, neither the respondent nor any party has filed an affidavit or any other process to show cause why the interim order should not be granted.
“I have no option but to grant the motion as prayed. I hereby order N449, 597,000 found in the possession of the respondent, which is believed to be proceeds of unlawful activities, finally forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria."
The EFCC had in recent months lost a few court cases on the recovery of looted public funds from some officials who served in the immediately past government of Goodluck Jonathan.
Some observers attributed this development to low morale of the EFCC lawyers due to the agency’s low financial strength while others contended that it was indicative of the setback in the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari government.