A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, has ordered the interim forfeiture of the funds and properties traced to Abidemi Rufai, the suspended aide of the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, who is facing wire fraud charges in the United States of America.
The court order, which was granted on Tuesday, covers Rufai’s property located at 11, Omodayo Awotuga Street, Bera Estate, Chevy View, Lekki, Lagos, and funds in his accounts domiciled in Sterling and Zenith banks.
Rufai, who served as the Deputy Director-General of the Dapo Abiodun Campaign Organisation in the last governorship election in the state, was arrested in May 2021 at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, US, on a criminal complaint of wire fraud for his scheme to steal over $350,000 (about N158 million) in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department, the acting US Attorney, Tessa M. Gorman, announced.
He made his initial appearance in court on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York.
Justice Tijjani Ringim made the order sequel to an ex parte motion filed and argued by a counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ebuka Okongwu.
The EFCC joined Rufai, his firm, Omo Mayodele Global Investment, and Sterling Bank PLC as the first, second and third respondents in the suit.
Okongwu told the judge that it was essential for the court to grant the prayer of interim forfeiture to preserve the remaining and prevent further dissipation of the defendant’s funds in his Sterling Bank account.
He then furnished the judge with an affidavit sworn to by an EFCC investigator, Usman Abdulhamid, detailing the agency’s investigation of Rufai in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Justice Ringim, in a bench ruling, granted the EFCC’s order as prayed in the motion paper.
“I am satisfied by the averment in the affidavit deposed to by Usman Abdulhamid and the legal submission of the counsel that this application should succeed and the same is accordingly granted as prayed,” the judge held.
The judge also ordered the EFCC to publish the order within 14 days from Tuesday for any interested party to show cause why the funds and property should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Justice Ringim adjourned further proceedings till December 1, 2021.