Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos has refused to heed the prayer of some litigants to strike out the order of interim forfeiture issued against N3.3 billion worth properties linked to former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
On Friday, Emmanuel Bassey, the counsel representing the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th respondents, asked the court to strike out the temporal forfeiture order because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has defaulted in serving them the interim order, to which Justice Obiozor said; "I cannot do that".
Joined in the forfeiture application with Mrs. Alison-Madueke are; Mr. Donald Chidi Amamgbo, 2nd respondent, and four withholding companies; Chapel Properties Limited, 3rd respondent; Blue Nile Estate Limited, 4th respondent; Azinga Meadows Limited, 5th respondent; and Vistapoints Property Development Ltd, 6th respondent.
At the last proceeding, Justice Abdulazeez Anka, through an ex parte order, granted EFCC an order of interim forfeiture of some properties to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He also ordered the anti-graft agency to make a publication of the order in a national newspaper and notify the respondents.
Mr. Ansalem Ozioko, the head of EFCC legal department, who also argued the application, said that the commission has notified the respondents through the newspaper publication and as such, respondents cannot say they have not been notified.
The interim forfeiture was preferred on four properties allegedly owned by Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
According to the ex parte motion filed by EFCC, these properties are located at: 7 Thurmburn Street and 5 Raymond Street Yaba Lagos; Heritage Court Estate Plot 2C Omerelu Street Diobu Government Residential Area Phase 1 Extension Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Mabushi Gardens Estate Plot 1205 Cadastral Zone B06 Mabushi Abuja; Plot 808 (135) Awolowo Road Ikoyi Lagos.
Mr. Ozioko argued in court that the assets were bought with "proceeds from unlawful activities by the respondents".
Mr. Sambo Muazu Mayana who deposed to the affidavit in support of the motion on notice revealed that First Bank of Nigeria Plc picked up $16 million, an equivalent of N2.6 billion, used to purchase the properties from Mrs. Alison-Madueke's house at 10 Fredrick Chiluba close off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja.
These monies were picked at different intervals between May 2011 to April 2013, at the time Mrs. Alison-Madueke was still Minister of Petroleum.
EFCC claimed it received an intelligence report in 2016 against the former minister and Mr. Amamgbo, who was described as an acquaintance of the former minister.
The agency then executed a search warrant at the office and premises of Mr. Amamgbo where some documents were recovered. One of such documents, according to EFCC, was titled 'Highly Confidential Attorney Work Product -- August Report'.
EFCC said the report contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and the United States of America.
Mr. Amamgbo allegedly confessed to EFCC that he registered the 18 companies to assist the former minister in holding titles of the properties.
Further investigation by the anti-graft agency into the ownership of the properties revealed that FBN Mortgages Ltd purchased 3 of the four properties, but in an extra judicial statement volunteered by Mrs. Bolanle Onotu, a Principal Manager and Head of Business Development of FBN Mortgages Ltd, the three properties were sold to Chapel Properties Limited, Blue Nile Estate Limited, and Azinga Meadows Limited; three of the holding companies joined in the matter.
"That First Bank of Nigeria Plc responded to our letter and stated that the source of the money was from Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and that the bank picked up United States dollars from her house at 10 Fredrick Chiluba Close off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja"
"That the Head, Public Sector Group, Abuja of First Bank of Nigeria Plc came and volunteered extra judicial statements in which he stated that the bank extended cash picked up services to Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke from her house... and that while $3, 342, 307 was c4 edited into FBN mortgage Limited account no 2008133531, other USD picked up were converted and credited into FBN Mortgages Limited naira account no: 2004438350," the court document stated.
In addition, EFCC claimed the fourth property was purchased by Adebern Parks Nigeria Limited. However, the title of the company was held in the name of Vistapoint Property Development Limited.
The anti-graft agency clarified that the sum of N802.5 million used by Adebern to purchase the property was paid into the company's Zenith Bank plc account no; 1012042341.
"That the payment received by Adebern Parks Nigeria Limited was from Eco Bank Plc account no: 0322014502 belonging to one Mr. Adeyemi Edun."
"That, in turn, Mr. Adeyemi Edun received the sum of N840 million from Skye Bank Plc which on his instruction the bank transferred the sum of N805 million to his Eco bank account no:0322014502 from where he paid Adebern Parks Nigeria Limited the sum of N802 million for the property."
"That Skye Bank plc, in turn, received the funds from First Bank of Nigeria Plc in favor of Adeyemi Edun through three RTGS transfers totaling N840 million," the affidavit read.
The court paper also revealed that some of the directors of the companies, registered by Mr. Amamgbo and charged in the suit, have fictitious names.
Today is the last day the vacation would sit, he ordered the case file be returned to the administrative judge and tentatively adjourned to September 21 for parties to argue their cases.