Court orders permanent forfeiture of recovered Ikoyi funds to FG
A Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday ordered the permanent forfeiture of the sums of monies recovered from Osborne Towers, Lagos to the coffers of the government.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had uncovered $43, 449, 947, £27, 800 and N23, 218, 000 at No. 16, Osborne Road, Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos on April 11.
The funds had been stashed in iron cabinets and juite bags in the apartment before they were discovered and recovered by the anti-graft agency, following intelligence information. As a result, the EFCC had filed and obtained an interim court order temporarily forfeiting the funds to the Federal Government on April 13, 2017.
Justice Muslim Hassan, who granted the interim order, had given 14 days for anyone interested in the funds to appear before him to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
But when the matter came up on May 5, 2017, no one came before the judge to claim the money. However, a private legal practitioner, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, appeared before the judge, with an application, urging the judge to suspend the final forfeiture proceedings pending when a three-man panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in relation to the funds would submit its report.
The panel, headed by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was to probe the claim and counter-claim of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and Rivers State Government to the funds. But the EFCC had opposed Ogungbeje’s application and urged Justice Hassan to dismiss it and go ahead with the forfeiture proceedings.
Ruling yesterday, Justice Hassan upheld the EFCC’s submission and dismissed Ogungbeje’s application for lacking in merit. The judge described the application as totally strange, noting that having not appealed against the interim forfeiture order, Ogungbeje had no right to seek a stay of proceedings in the case.
The judge, who noted that Ogungbeje was not a party in the suit filed by the EFCC, described the lawyer as a meddlesome interloper and a busybody, adding that his application was strange to law.
He advised the lawyer to explore the Freedom of Information Act if he wanted information from the Federal Government on the findings of the Osinbajo’s panel. Having dismissed Ogungbeje’s application, the judge subsequently made an order permanently forfeiting the funds to the Federal Government, noting that no one had appeared to show cause why the permanent forfeiture order should not be made.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, I hereby make the following orders: 1. A final order is made forfeiting the sums of $43,449,947 found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at Flat 7B of No. 16 Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” he held.