The Court of Appeal in Lagos on Friday dismissed an appeal by the embattled former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, challenging the forfeiture of her $40 million worth of jewellery to the Nigerian Government.
The Appeal Court held that there was no substance in Diezani's bid to overturn the lower court's order.
It affirmed the 2019 judgment of Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court which forfeited the jewellery following an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The appellate court gave its judgment in an appeal filed by Diezani marked as Appeal - No CA/L/1263/19 between Diezani Alison-Madueke and the EFCC).
On July 5, 2019, the EFCC secured an order of the high court temporarily forfeiting the expensive items to the Nigerian Government.
According to the schedule attached to the application, the jewellery, categorised into 33 sets, include “419 expensive bangles; 315 expensive rings; 304 expensive earrings; 267 expensive necklaces; 189 expensive wristwatches; 174 expensive necklaces and earrings; 78 expensive bracelets; 77 expensive brooches; and 74 expensive pendants.”
The items were seized from the former minister's premises at No. 10 Fredrick Chiluba Close, Asokoro, Abuja.
Justice Oweibo on July 19, 2019 granted the EFCC's motion for final forfeiture of the jewellery.
The judge held that the former Minister failed to show cause why the jewellery should not be forfeited to the government.
In his application for the final forfeiture order, EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo had told the judge that the items were reasonably suspected to have been acquired with the proceeds of unlawful activities.
An investigator with the Commission, Rufai Zaki, in an affidavit before the court insisted that the jewellery were beyond the former minister’s “known and provable lawful income.”
The investigator further said that findings by the EFCC showed that she started acquiring the jewellery in 2012, two years after she was appointed Minister.
The investigator also said the EFCC was in possession of the details of the bank account through which Diezani received her salary as a minister.
“The respondent did not utilise her salary or any part of her legitimate income to acquire the assets sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Zaki said.
He said a “damning intelligence report” received by the Commission led to the search of former minister’s house at No. 10 Fredrick Chiluba Close, Asokoro, Abuja.
The Former Minister on her part had challenged the seizure of the jewellery from her premises by the EFCC.
In an affidavit filed on her behalf by her counsel, Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), Diezani, who is currently in the United Kingdom, alleged that the EFCC violated her fundamental “right to own property and to appropriate them at her discretion,” under sections 43 and 44 of the constitution.
She also accused the anti-graft agency of entering her apartment illegally and taking the items without any court order.