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Lagos court orders forfeiture of $43.4m

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•indicted INEC staff refund Diezani’s bribe

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of 43million dollars, 27,800 pounds and N23 million to the Federal Government.

This is coming as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday said some of its staff accused of benefitting from a N3.4 billion bribe money in the 2015 general elections have refunded their share.

 

The money was recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from an apartment in the Ikoyi area of Lagos on Wednesday.

The EFCC had in an ex parte application, sought an interim order of the court to forfeit the money to the Federal Government.

In a ruling on Thursday, the court, presided over by Justice Muslim Hassan, ordered that the funds be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

 

The judge adjourned until May 5, for anyone interested in the funds to show up before him, to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

 

The judge made the forfeiture order shortly after entertaining an ex parte application filed by counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo.

 

The EFCC had on Wednesday evening raided an apartment numbered Flat 7B, No. 13, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, recovering the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 kept in iron cabinets and “Ghana must go’’ bags in the said apartment which was under security locks.

Moving the ex parte application for the interim forfeiture of the funds, Oyedepo told the court that no one had come forward to claim it, adding that the staff of one AM Facilities managing the apartment where the huge sums were found could not provide the anti-graft agency with information on the possible owner of the money.

 

He urged the judge to exercise the power conferred on him by Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Offences Act to order the interim forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.

 

“We received an intelligence that No.16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Flat 7B had in it various sums of money that we are seeking to forfeit.

 

“The intelligence was acted upon and on getting there, we executed Exhibit EFCC 1, which is a search warrant. As God would have it sir, we were able to recover $43, 449,947; still in the same flat, we also recovered £27,800. That was not all, we were also able to recover N23, 218, 000.

 

“For security reasons and because of the volume, we did not want to bring the money before My Lord, but we have registered it as an exhibit with the exhibit keeper and the evidence is contained in Exhibit EFCC 04.

“Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related Offences Act empowered My Lord, where a property is found to be an unclaimed property or where a property is found to be proceeds of an unlawful activity, to forfeit such property in the interim,’’ Oyedepo said.

 

He drew the judge’s attention to a portion of the court papers where the commission had stated under oath that “no one had approached the commission to claim the said money, with reasonable evidence, confirming the genuineness of the origin of the money that we are seeking to forfeit in the interim’’.

 

“I, therefore, humbly and most respectfully urge My Lord to forfeit this money to the Federal Government, pending when anyone who has the mind to come and claim the money,’’ the lawyer added.

 

After listening to him, Justice Hassan, in a short ruling, said that in view of the facts placed before him, he was “mindful of granting the interim reliefs sought,’’ by the EFCC.

 

He also granted the anti-graft agency’s prayer to advertise or publish the interim forfeiture order in any national newspaper for any concerned party to see it.

 

He adjourned till May 5, 2017 to allow such a person to come before him to give reasons why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

 

In a related development, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, disclosed this when he visited the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, in Abuja.

 

A statement by spokesman of the EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, quoted the INEC chairman as saying that 70 of the affected staff in three states were still in denial.

 

Yakubu, according to Uwujaren, said they would be referred to the EFCC for further investigation.

 

The INEC chairman also said about five INEC political appointees, who are either National Commissioners or Resident Commissioners, were found wanting.

 

Also indicted, he said, are 21 retired staff mostly acting under the aegis of WANEO (West African Network of Election Observers).

 

Yakubu said 21 retirees had been blacklisted from monitoring elections and other activities organised by INEC in the future, according to Uwujaren.

 

“If we get our election right, we get our democracy right as the right people will be elected and once we get our democracy right we will get national progress and development on track.

 

“INEC is on the same page with the EFCC in this big responsibility of sanitising the country,’’ the INEC chairman was quoted saying.

 

Responding, Magu was said to have expressed the anti-graft agency’s readiness to prosecute all the indicted INEC staff.

 

“We are already prosecuting some of the INEC staff, we have started in Lagos and we are in the process in Port-Harcourt, Kano and Gombe,’’ Magu reportedly said.

 

While expressing satisfaction with the collaboration between both agencies, Magu commended the INEC boss for supporting the investigation involving some of his staff members.

 

He said: “What you have done will change the course of electioneering in this country, by bringing in sanity and credibility.

 

“It will send a signal and serve as deterrent to any person who may wish to perpetrate fraud in the electoral process whether as a monitor or staff of INEC.’’

 

Magu assured INEC of continued support from the EFCC, noting that the agency’s functions are central to the future of the country, and that the next election must be different.

 

Uwujaren said the INEC boss was accompanied on the visit by other management staff of the commission, including Hajiya Amina Zakari, Mr Baba Shetima and Prof. Okey Ibeanu.

 

Credits| NAN


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