A Federal High Court in Lagos, Lagos State, today approved the interim forfeiture of N664,475,246.60 and $137,680.11 found in accounts belonging to Clement Illoh Onubuogo, a serving Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment, and 15 other persons. The funds are suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.
The court’s interim order also ordered that two properties in Delta State alleged to have been acquired and developed with proceeds of stealing should also be forfeited to the Federal Government.
The decisions arose from an application filed by Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa, a counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In an affidavit in of the application, an EFCC agent, Huleji Abraham Tukura, stated that the commission’s special task force received tips suggesting that Mr. Onubuogo diverted funds meant for various SURE-P programs under the Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment and converted the funds to personal use.
The EFCC agent said the commission analyzed the tips and found them worthy of investigation. He told the court that Mr. Clement Illoh Onubuogo was a serving Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment with responsibility for supervising numerous programs under SURE-P, including Technical and Vocational Educational Training and Community Service Women and youth empowerment programs.
Mr. Onubuogo supervised more than N10 billion released by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The EFCC’s affidavit alleged that the permanent secretary converted at least N876, 981,225.05 to his personal gain by awarding fictitious and fraudulent contracts to his company, Clement & Bob Associates, which he used to fraudulently enrich himself to the tune of N94, 829,845.60, funds which were meant for the SURE-P programs. According to the EFCC, the senior civil servant also used his position to receive kickbacksfrom various contracts under the SURE -P program using his staff and front companies. From the said kickbacks, Mr. Onubuogo reportedly made cash payments totaling N81, 110,250 into Clement & Bob Associates’ account number 1013449507 using fictitious names. He also reportedly received the sum of $600,000, suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity, which he converted to N103, 200,000 and paid into the same company account.
Mr. Takura further stated that the permanent secretary awarded a contract to one of his companies, Ojeagu Farms Limited, where he is a director and sole signatory account of the company. Through the said company, Mr. Onubuogo reportedly converted the sum of N90million to his personal gain and made further cash deposits totaling N9, 968,000.00 into the account using fictitious names.
According to the EFCC, the civil servant received another sum of N37, 802,000, which was diverted through Joseph Emeka Agoha, a staff of Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment. In addition, through Ojeagu Global Service, a company owned by his family, the permanent secretary reportedly converted the sum of N159,770,383.45. Through undeclared accounts Mr. Onubuogo held at Access Bank and First Bank, he is alleged to have fraudulently concealed the sum of N123, 000,000.
According to the EFCC, through a fictitious contract, the permanent secretary, one John Tsokwa and one Salisu Kura, conspired and procured the sum of N29, 168,654 out of which the sum of N10, 500,00 was retained by Mr. Onubuogo.
The EFCC further contended that one Tejuoso Atalabi, a relative of Mr. Onubuogo who owned Armadillo Nigeria Limited and Boldblock Construction Limited, was fraudulently awarded contracts in the sum of N116, 756,748. Mr. Atalabi reportedly retained the total sum of N45, 719,640.
Two buildings in the form of a mansion situated at Ikem Quarters, Issala-Azagba, Delta State, and another building, in the form of a hotel situated at 19 Madue Nwafor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road in Asaba, Delta State, which were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity, were recovered from the permanent secretary. Also recovered from the top civil servant was the sum of N545, 588,266.72, reportedly stolen from the account of the Federal Government of Nigeria, which he could not give satisfactory account of it.
The EFCC also recovered a total sum of N129, 826,452 from the following people: Salisu Bala Kura, Rabiu Said, Tonye Isokeiri, Buhari Maaji Dahiru, John Tsokwa Lanky, Ahmed Mahmoud Music, Muktar Sufism, Udoh Nnamdi, Umar Bello Mashi, Salogu Karo, Usman Bello, Ahmed Mohammed Makki, Umar Abubakar, Aliyu Abubakar, and Enape Victoria. According to the anti-graft agency, the listed individuals engaged in a grand conspiracy with Mr. Onubuogo to steal funds belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court to issue an order of interim forfeiture in favor of the Federal Government of Nigeria regarding the monies and properties found in possession of the permanent secretary as the assets were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of stealing.
In his ruling, Justice Abdulaziz Anka ordered interim forfeiture of the monies and properties to the Federal Government as requested in the EFCC’s application.
Justice Anka also ordered that the order of the court should be published in any national newspaper to enable Mr. Onubuogo or anyone who is interested in the money and properties meant for forfeiture to appear before the court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture should not be made in favor of the Federal Government of Nigeria.