17 February 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – A Federal High Court yesterday ordered the final forfeiture of N23.4 billion, N9.08 billion, and $5 million (about N34 billion in total) linked to former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Muslim Hassan, who had issued an interim forfeiture order on the funds on January 6, on Thursday gave a “final forfeiture order” on the funds.
The judge said he was satisfied with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s argument that the monies were proceeds of illegal activity.
According to a statement from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the seized money was stolen from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and stashed in three banks in Nigeria, in US dollars and Naira.
Out of the loot, N23.4 billion was kept in Sterling Bank Plc. The sum of N9.08 billion was kept in First Bank Plc and $5m in Access Bank Plc.
Justice Muslim Hassan, who gave the order, gave Sterling Bank and any other interested party 14 days to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The banks or any of its customer failed to convince the court on the legitimacy of the funds.
The judge made the order on January 6 in favour of the EFCC which appeared before him with an ex parte application seeking temporary forfeiture of the funds.
In a nine-paragraph affidavit by by EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, and filed in support of the ex parte application, the anti-graft agency said it discovered how sometime in December 2014 the former minister invited a former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, to her office. There they hatched the plan to move $153,310,000 from the NNPC to Mr. Okonkwo for Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke, according to Mr. Awolusi, instructed Mr. Okonkwo to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.
Mr. Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal leading to the movement of $153,310,000 from the NNPC to Fidelity Bank.
He said that two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, helped Mrs. Alison-Madueke to move the cash from NNPC, Abuja, to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos.
Mr. Awolusi said in a desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, Mr. Okonkwo, upon receiving it, instructed the Country Head of Fidelity Bank, Martin Izuogbe, to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Lanre Adesanya, to keep.
He said the remaining $40 million was taken in cash to an executive director, [Public Sector Account], First Bank, to keep.
The investigator said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Mr. Adesanya, $108,310,000 was invested in an off balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited.
The money was subsequently converted into N23.4 billion and saved in Sterling Bank.
Mr. Awolusi said the EFCC had recovered the N23.4 billion in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked, EFCC 01.
The investigator said the EFCC had also recovered another $5 million out of the money kept with the Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe.
He said the $5 million was recovered in draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked, EFCC 02.
According to him, First Bank’s Director, had similarly converted the $40m kept with him to N9,080,000,000.
Mr. Awolusi, however, said the EFCC recovered that also in draft and registered it as Exhibit EFCC 03.
Moving the ex parte application on January 6, EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Hassan to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government and to order Sterling Bank and a First Bank director, who were joined as defendants in the application, as well as any other interested parties, to appear in court within two weeks to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Mr. Oyedepo, who said the application was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2)(‘) of the 1999 Constitution, said granting the application was in the best interest of justice.
Justice Hassan granted the order and adjourned till January 24, 2016 for the respondents to appear in court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.