A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday ordered the permanent forfeiture of N131.237,800.00 and multi-million Naira property bought with funds allegedly stolen from the Ministry of Power by nine persons.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who made the order following an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), directed that the forfeited assets be handed over to the federal government.
The respondents in the case are: Bilikisu Fatolu, Fatolu Shuaib Gbolahan, I. I. Ikwuegbu, Nwachukwu Ogbonna C., Elvic Hotel, Abdullahi Aminu Hamcheta, Shamia Exclusive International Ltd, Abdullahi Abubakar Danburam and Dada Matthew Olugbenga.
The properties are located in Abuja, Kaduna, Kogi and Nassarawa States.
They include: A unit of three bedrooms, two units of shops, a shop in an open space, a plot of land, Elvic Hotel with an events hall, generator house and appurtenances, a piece of land, eight units of shops and restroom.
Others are: A plot of land, one unit of two bedroom detached bungalow, two units of shops, two hectares of land and bank drafts and cheques bearing the sum of N131.237,800.00.
The sums and properties were first forfeited in the interim by Justice Lord Dimgba J on October 19, 2018, pursuant to an ex parte application of September 28, 2018, filed by EFCC counsel O. O Adeola.
Granting his prayer, Justice Dimgba directed the EFCC to cause to be published in The Nation Newspaper so that any person or corporate body who may have interest in the properties and the sum of money, may within 14 days of the publication, show cause why the properties should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
But, following Justice Dimgba’s transfer to another jurisdiction, the matter was assigned to Justice Taiwo.
At the hearing of the motion on notice on Dec 16, the EFCC informed the court that it had complied with the instruction and published the said order in The Nation of November 5, 2018 and that the EFCC had succeeded in personally serving all the defendants.
Granting the anti-graft agency’s prayer for final forfeiture, Justice Taiwo said he had established service of the processes against the defendants as can be seen from the records of the court.
He said: “It means that none of the defendants can deny that they are not aware of this suit which has to do with forfeiture of their interests in properties, the subject matter of this application, jointly or severally.
“I have gone through the affidavit before me which remain unchallenged and uncontroverted….
“I have stated above that the defendants are aware of this suit. They filed no counter affidavit to show that the properties and the huge sum of money found in the accounts of some of them are not proceeds of crime.
“These defendants are said to have stolen money from the Ministry of Power by fraudulent schemes and that they were arrested and they all volunteered written statements.
“They were said to have acquired properties with the stolen money, yet they filed no counter affidavit to these very weighty allegations of criminality. In any case they were said to have admitted during investigation to have stolen the funds from the Ministry of Power.”
The judge noted that he would be failing in his duty not to act according to the law and in line with judicial precedent if Ihe did not grant the application for final forfeiture.
Justice Taiwo added, “I hereby order final forfeiture of the properties listed in the schedule of assets and properties attached to the motion on notice to the Federal Government of Nigeria. It means that this application is meritorious.
“All the orders sought vide the application on notice dated the 19th day of November 2018 are hereby granted as prayed. This is the judgement of the court,” the court held.