The Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos has likened Union Bank Plc Involvement in the controversial Flat 7b, in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, to that of a “busyboy” while he permanently forfeited same flat to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
It was in this flat that slush sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 (about N13bn) were found by the operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on April 12, 2017.
The money was disowned for a while until the now sacked National Intelligence Agency (NIA) boss, Mr. Ayodele Oke, claimed the sums were stashed for a highly coveted NIA operation which the President Muhammed Buhari had not been briefed about.
The same court had ordered the final forfeiture of the sums recovered in the apartment to the federal government.
However, there were controversies on the ownership of the apartment where the money was found until the anti-graft agency traced the ownership to Mrs. Folashade Oke, the wife of the sacked NIA boss.
The commission revealed that Mrs. Oke bought the properties with proceeds of fraud by her husband.
Thereafter, an order for temporal forfeiture of the apartment was obtained by EFCC in November of 2017, through an ex-patre application.
Union Bank Plc came into the matter to challenge the temporal forfeiture of the sum, claiming that the property was mortgaged to Union Bank in exchange for a loan.
Chief Ajibola Aribisala (SAN), who represented the bank, said the bank sold the flat to Chobe Ventures, a company owned by Mr. Oke’s wife, with an agreement that the flat owner would observe several “covenants”, including payment of service charges, land use charge and levies.
Adding that granting the permanently forfeiting the apartment to the government would prevent it from enforcing the terms of the agreement on which the flat sale was based.
Justice Saliu Saidu, today, however ruled in favor of EFCC and ordered the final forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
In his ruling, Justice Olatoregun dismissed the objection by Union Bank, which claimed to have interest in the property.
The judge said he found from the papers filed before the court, that the bank had already sold the property to Chobe Ventures Ltd., a company owned by Mrs. Oke.
Justice Saidu held, "It appears to me that the interested party (Union Bank) is a busybody, who is crying more than the bereaved, having transferred all its rights on the property, the subject matter of this suit.
"The interested party has no legal reason to lodge any complaint on the steps being taken by the EFCC on the property, having divested its interest by the outright sale of the property to Chobe Ventures.
"I find the interested party's motion, seeking to vacate the interim order of forfeiture granted by this court on November 9, 2017, as unmeritorious and same is struck out.
"From the affidavit evidence before the court, the applicant (EFCC) has shown clearly that the property sought to be forfeited was reasonably suspected to have been acquired with the proceeds of unlawful activities of Mr. and Mrs. Ayodele Oke in the name of Chobe Ventures.
"The fund belongs to the Federal Government of Nigeria, which, at the material time, is under the control of Ambassador Ayodele Oke.
"The respondent, Chobe Ventures Ltd., refused and neglected to either file any process or appear in court.
"Based on the provisions of Section 44 (3) (b) of the Constitution and Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14 of 2006, I hereby order the final forfeiture of a property described as Flat 7B, situated at No. 16, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos and its appurtenances to the Federal Government