…As NCC probes operators’ strength status There are concerns in the Nigeriaan telecom industry on the financial and technical status of operators, especially with the exit of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS) investors from the Nigerian market. Industry watchers are of the opinion that these operators may not be as strong as the way they…
By Lukman Olabiyi
Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal Court, Lagos, has ordered the final forfeiture of N23.4 billion, N9.08 billion and $5 million, amounting to about N34 billion, linked to former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The judge had earlier issued an interim forfeiture order on the funds on January 6.
In his ruling yesterday, Justice Hassan ordered a final forfeiture of the unclaimed sum to the Federal Government. He declared: “I hereby make an order pursuant to section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud-related Offences Act 2016, for final forfeiture of the unclaimed sum of N23, 426, 300.000.00 billion and $5 million to the Federal Government finally.”
The judge ruled that in respect of the second respondent, “learned counsel, Charles Adeogun, informed the court that the second respondent filed a counter affidavit on why the sum of N9.08 billion should not be forfeited. I have carefully examined the affidavit evidence before the court and I find that the second respondent was duly cautioned in English language before his statement was taken and so, I hold that same was taken without any evidence of inducement.
“On the whole, I am satisfied that all the conditions stated in Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offence Act were duly fulfilled by the applicant. I accordingly make the following orders: An order for the final forfeiture of the sum of N23, 426, 300.000.00 billion being unclaimed property, to the Federal Government of Nigeria; an order of final forfeiture is also made for the sum of N9.08 billion recovered from the second respondent, to the Federal Government of Nigeria. This is my judgment.”
Before the judgment, Adeogun had informed the court of his pending motions filed on February 3, first, seeking an abridgement of time and secondly, for leave to file further affidavits to his counter affidavit.
He told the court parties were exploring means of reaching amicable settlement in the matter, while describing it as a common sense approach to resolving the matter.
The lawyer said the sum recovered from the second respondent and sought to be finally forfeited, were gathered from friends and relatives, adding that the facts were not made available to the court at the last adjourned date because the instruments with which the funds were paid were with the commission.
In response, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court he was not privy to such settlement options, adding that he was only sent to do the “bidding” of his employers.
He said: “If the intention of the respondent is to keep the application in the court’s file in abeyance, I will then pray the court to strike out the applications relying on the authorities of SIEC Ekiti State vs NCP, Newswatch Communication Ltd. vs Attah and Manuel vs Briggs.
“The applications the counsels seek to put in abeyance in sum is intended to arrest the court’s judgment fixed for today (yesterday).
“In all these authorises, the court had held that it is alien for the court to allow its judgment to be arrested once reserved. It is just like a pregnant woman in the delivery room, getting an invitation to attend a wedding ceremony. In essence, the court is carrying a pregnancy, and so, no party should be allowed to terminate it.”
He said the court had given parties adequate time for any one to complain of rights infringement, stating: “I urge the court to strike out the application so that the coast can be clear to deliver judgment.”
The trial judge, in a short ruling over the counsels’ arguments, allowed Adeogun to move his application. After Adeogun had moved the application, the court, in a short ruling, dismissed the application and proceeded with delivering judgment.
The EFCC had initiated an exparte application, seeking an interim order for the temporary forfeiture of the sum to the Federal Government, which it claimed was linked to the ex-minister.
The court had also issued 14 days to any interested party to appear and prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
At the last adjourned date on January 24, Oyedepo and Adeogun had argued their originating processes before the court.
Oyedepo had urged the court to make the interim order absolute and order a final forfeiture of the sums to the Federal Government.
Adeogun, on his part, urged the court to issue an order directing a refund of the sum of N9.08billion to the respondent, on the grounds that same was obtained by coercion.