A loot recovery lawsuit filed by the Federal Republic of Nigerian and two of its agencies,Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Ltd (NPDC) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), against two oil companies linked to former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison Madueke could not be heard today as the court did not seat. The case was then adjourned to November 10, 2017 for hearing.
The lawsuit is urging Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo to order two companies, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited (AEDC) and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited (AEBD), to forfeit the sum of $1,762,338,184.40. The co-defendants in the suit are two Nigerian businessmen, Olajide Omokore and Kolawole Aluko, who serve as chairman and director of the two companies respectively.
Also pending before the court is an application filed by Mr. Omokore, Mr. Aluko and their companies urging the court to set aside its interim order approving their forfeiture of the disputed financial and physical assets. The defendants want the court to stay further proceedings in the suit on the ground that they have filed an appeal against the court’s interim ruling ordering the defendants to forfeit some of their properties and assets to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The defendants’ application contends that the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit, therefore cannot make the order it granted.
However, the Federal Government’s lawyer, Dipo Okpeseyi, has filed a counter affidavit to the defendants’ application. The affidavit, sworn to by a Lagos based lawyer, Adedotun Akintola-Idowu on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria,argued that the same defendants submitted to the jurisdiction of the court in another case on the same subject matter in suit FCH/ABJ/477/16 seeking for its referral to arbitration.
Mr. Akintola-Idowu also contended that the defendants could not hope to secure a stay of proceedings merely by raising untenable arguments of lack of jurisdiction and fair hearing in their notice of appeal. He described the defendants’ appeal as a set-up to delay or frustrate the hearing of the substantive matter before the court, adding that the defendants do not have any credible grounds of appeal. He said that, if the defendants’ application was granted, depriving the Federal Government of the capacity to attach the defendants’ properties and monies, the ruling would pave a way for such properties and assets to be dissipated away from the jurisdiction of the court if judgment is finally entered in favor of the Federal Government.
He urged the court to dismiss the defendants’ application for a stay, adding that the application lacked merit.
Meanwhile, a limited liability company, Virtual Properties and Investment Limited, has also filed another application as intervener, urging the court to discharge or vary its temporary forfeiture order, as it relates to Marion Apartments. The company argued that some properties, known as Marion Apartments, located at Block 8 Plots 4 & 5 Onikoyi Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi, consist of 56 apartments owned and developed by the intervener. The application claimed that, by virtue of two separate deeds, the intervener subleased 43 out of the 56 apartments to Realblanc Energy Engineering Limited, an affiliate of the defendants.
The intervener stated that, since it retains ownership of 13 out of the 56 apartments in Marion Apartments, the court’s temporary forfeiture order was prejudicial to its interest and interfered with its right of ownership over the apartments.
Last year, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, alongside NPDC and NNPC, sued Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and two of their directors, Mr. Omokore and Mr. Aluko,petitioning the court to restrain the defendants and their agents within and outside Nigeria from giving instructions, demanding, accepting or receiving payment from 19 commercial banks in Nigeria, eight offshore banks, and eight other companies listed before the court.
An affidavit by a legal practitioner, Isaac KehindeOginni, of the Federal Ministry of Justice Abuja and filed before Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo by Mr. Okpeseyi, argued that Olajide Omokore, Kolawole Aluko and their two companies owed $1,762,338,284.40 to the Federal Republic of Nigeria on account of crude oil lifting under a so-called strategic alliance agreement between the defendants and the Nigerian Government.
Mr. Ogini swore that the defendants, by virtue of the agreement, were granted licenses to lift crude oil and other associated products out of Nigeria for sale, with the understanding that the profits would be shared according to agreed terms. The defendants indeed lifted and sold the crude oil and had been paid, but they failed to pay the Federal Government. Instead, they unlawfully diverted and converted the profit share due to the Federal Government in the sum of $1,762,338,184.40 to their private use.
Among the particulars of diversion alleged in the government’s affidavit is the defendants’ purchase of vehicles whose combined value exceeded N800 million. The defendants reportedly donated the vehicles to the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through its national chairman, Prince Secondus. Additional vehicles valued at more than N130 million were purchased by the defendants and distributed to former Minister of Petroleum,Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, and some other managerial staff of Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
One of the defendants, Mr. Aluko, allegedly paid the sums of $18,548,619.99 and N1, 070,000,000to FBN Mortgages Limited as part payment for Block A consisting of 26 Flats at 46 Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. The property was purchased at a total cost of N5, 210,520,315. Payment of a total sum of $25,839,606.77 and N95, 000,000 was made to Real Bank for the purpose of part financing the acquisition of the Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria limited (AEDC) and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited (AEBD) companies’ property as well as renovation of the properties listed below:
- Mason Apartments situated at 6 Gerrard Road Ikoyi Lagos comprising 60 units of three bedrooms apartment valued at $78,000,000
- Marion Apartments Block 8 located at 4 & 5 Onikoyi Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos consisting of 43 units of apartments valued at $76,160,000
- Renovation of apartment block at 33A Cooper Road Ikoyi, Lagos at a total cost of $4,937,750.
- Renovation of the Admiralty Towers at 8 Gerrard Road Ikoyi, Lagos.
The government alleged that the defendants transferred additional funds totaling $69,912,981.15 to several companies, namely Mia Hotels Limited, First Motors Limited, V.I.Petrochemicals, Evergreen Reality &Management, WIz Trade Limited, DE First Union Integrated Services and Amity Plus Limited. Mr.Ogini also asserted that Mr. Aluko literally took residence outside the shores of Nigeria in order to facilitate the diversion of the proceeds of the crude oil he and his companies lifted.