Justice Akintayo Aluko of a Federal High Court in Lagos, on Friday, directed the Federal Government to permanently take over a vacant plot of land linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Aluko’s order of the final forfeiture of the land located at Plot 13, Block I, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos, after listening to an application to that effect from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In his ruling, Justice Aluko held that, “this motion on notice dated February 17, 2022, coming before this Honourable Court on 25th day of March 2022, praying the Court for the following reliefs; a final Order forfeiting the properties, assets listed and – described in the schedule herein to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“And for such further orders as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.
“After reading the affidavit in support of the motion paper sworn to by Babana Job, of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of 15A Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State. And the court having heard A.O. Mohammed Esq, for the Plaintiff/ Applicant moved the application praying the court to grant the reliefs sought as endorsed on the motion paper.
“It is hereby ordered as follows, that a final order is hereby granted forfeiting the property/asset listed and described in the schedule herein to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The anti-graft agency had listed the former Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, a Nigerian lawyer, Donald Chidi Amamgbo and MEZ Group LLC, as respondents in the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/811/2018.
Justice Babs Kuewuni, who formerly presided over the court, had sometimes in 2018, granted interim forfeiture of the said land upon reading the affidavit in support of the motion paper sworn to by AbdulRasheed Bawa, now the chairman of the Commission, which was argued and moved by Anselem B. C. Ozioko.
Part of Justice kuewumi’s orders directed the EFCC to notify the persons in whose possession the properties sought to be forfeited are found to appear before this Honourable Court and show cause within 14 days why the properties should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The order also directed the EFCC to publish in any Newspaper of the Interim Order, for persons in whose possession the properties sought to be forfeited are found or anyone interested in the properties sought to be forfeited to appear before this Honourable Court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture of the properties mentioned in the relief 1 herein should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
In asking the court for final forfeiture of the said land, the EFCC through one of its investigators, Babana Job, in an affidavit in support of the motion stated that sometime in 2016, a Search Warrant was executed at the Office and premises of Mr.u Donald Chidi Amamgbo (second Defendant in the suit) and a known acquaintance of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke (first Defendant).
The investigator stated that among the documents recovered from the office of the second defendant was an undated report titled: Highly Confidential Attorney work ProductAugust Report. The said report contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Nigeria.
He further claimed that the Commission extended an invitation to the second defendant and was unable to locate the first Defendant in respect of the discoveries during the search.
“The second defendant honoured the invitation extended to him and upon his report, he was confronted with the Highly Confidential Attorney Work Product August Report.
“In the course of the interview, he told the agency that he registered the 18 companies, including the third defendant to assist Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke (first Defendant) in holding titles of her properties and that all the properties belong to her,” he alleged.
The deponent stated that as part of investigative procedures, the Commission wrote and dispatched letters of investigation activities to Oniru Chieftaincy family property Company (Oniru), individuals, organizations and Financial institutions, replies were received and analysed.
Adding that based on the findings of the investigation, the EFCC commenced an action to forfeit the vacant plot at plot 13 Block Il, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos State.
And that the Court in a considered Ruling granted an Interim order of forfeiture against the plot 13 Block Il, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos State to the Federal Government of Nigeria. A copy of the interim order is herewith attached and marked as exhibit EFCC 28.
He also averred that in compliance with Court Order as contained in exhibit EFCC 28, the interim order of the Honourable Court has been published in The Nation Newspaper Vol. No. 4404 Monday, August 20, 2018, as ordered by the Honourable Court.
The EFCC operative claimed that no person or party has shown or signified interest to ‘show cause’ against the interim order of the court, which necessitated the present application for the final forfeiture order of the Honourable Court.
He stated that it was of utmost public interest and concern and in the interest of justice to grant this application.