Court to determine final forfeiture of N2.2bn linked to Nigeria’s ex-air force chief

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday reserved ruling until December 3, on a motion seeking final forfeiture to the federal government of the sum of N2.2 billion recovered from a former Chief of Air Staff, Adesola Amosu.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun reserved the date for ruling, after listening to arguments from counsel to parties in the motion on notice

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the court had issued an interim order of forfeiture of the sum, on June 14, following an exparte motion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Joined as respondents in the suit are Mr Amosu, and a company, Solomon Enterprises Ltd.

The Commission had argued that the sums were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

Justice Olatoregun had also issued an interim order for a temporary forfeiture of N190 million recovered from a former Air Force Director of Finance and Budget, Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo.

The court had further ordered a temporary forfeiture of N101 million recovered from Solomon Enterprises, a company linked to Amosu.

The judge had then directed the EFCC to publish the interim orders in two national dailies, for the respondents or any interested party, to show cause why a final order of forfeiture should not be made.

On Monday, Rotimi Oyedepo appeared for the EFCC, while Norrison Quakers (SAN) announced appearance for an interested party in the suit (Jacob Adigun).

Bolaji Ayorinde announced appearance for the first and second respondent.

Moving his motion for final order, EFCC counsel, Mr Oyedepo, informed the court that his motion was dated October 24, seeking a court’s order for final forfeiture of the sum.

He said that his application was supported by an affidavit deposed to by one Tosin Owobo, and adopted same, urging the court to order a final forfeiture of the sum.

Arguing his motion further, Mr Oyedepo told the court that intelligence reports revealed that the respondent stacked crime proceeds in his account, and had directed his aide to remove the sum $10.5 million.

He said that the respondents had not been able to show how they legitimately earned these sums of money, which the EFCC is seeking to be permanently forfeited to the Government.

He argued that the law empowers the EFCC to bring an application for forfeiture of funds, where it reasonably suspects same to be proceeds of crime or an unlawful act, adding that its present motion was brought on that premise.

Besides, Mr Oyedepo argued that the interested party has not been able to show how the funds sought to be forfeited, affects him or will affect, adding that having failed to show this cause, the court should discountenance his averment.

He urged the court to grant the final orders as sought.

On his part, Mr Quakers, counsel to the interested party, moved his application before the court, seeking to set aside the interim orders, on grounds of “suppression of material facts”

He told the court that the case before it, was one in which the same respondents had already been charged and undergoing trial before a brother judge, and in which there also exist a court’s order, preserving the subject matter of the suit, pending conclusion of trial.

He said that sufficient facts had already been deposed to in his affidavit, to show sufficient interest of the interested party in the suit, as it is clear that he Incorporated the company known as Delfina.

Citingn Article 54 of the UN Convention on Corruption, counsel argued that where a person whose property is sought to be forfeited, is unavailable to show cause, then the court is free to make an order.

He argued that this was not the case in the matter before the court, as material facts has been placed before the court to show cause on the part of the interested party.

Mr Quakers urged the court to decline the order for final forfeiture, as the grounds stated in his affidavit to show cause, were quite weighty, and same had not been controverted.

Meanwhile, Mr Ayorinde, also urged the court to refuse a grant of final forfeiture as moved by the EFCC.

He argued that the proceedings for final forfeiture, does not envisage a situation where the property sought to be forfeited, is a subject matter before another court.

According to him, it will be over- reaching, where for instance, the trial court, discharges same respondents of the criminal charges before it.

He argued that having subjected the respondents to the charges pending before the trial court, the application for final forfeiture ought to fail and be dismissed.

Mr Ayorinde also informed the court that the prosecution had no application for extension of time, concerning the 14 days period after the interim orders were made.

“The motion for final forfeiture is coming late in the day, and ought not to be granted,” he said

Besides, the counsel argued, the EFCC was not without remedy; since even if they fail in the instant suit, they can still continue with the charge at the trial court.

He, urged the court to refuse the order for final forfeiture.

Justice Olatoregun has reserved ruling until December 3.

In a counter affidavit deposed to by an EFCC operative, Danladi, the commission alleged that while in office, the respondents diverted huge sums of money from the Nigerian Air force accounts, to purchase properties both within and outside the country.

He said that Mr Amosu who was appointed Chief of Air Staff on January 16, 2014, had in the course of his service, received budgetary provisions in the sum of N4.5 billion, from Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The sum was said to be for Maritime Security Support, pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Nigerian Air force and NIMASA.

The Commission averred that part of the sums were utilised by the respondent for personal gains.

(NAN)

News Reporter

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