- Court Orders Permanent Forfeiture of Ikoyi Billions
Following the failure of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to come forward to lay claim to the ownership of $43,449,947; £27,800 and N23,218,000 (N13.3 billion) discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in an Ikoyi apartment on April 12, 2017, Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Tuesday ordered the final forfeiture of the cash haul to the federal government.
In his ruling, Justice Hassan upheld the submission by the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedope, and dismissed the application of a private legal practitioner, Olukoya Ogungbeje, which had urged the court to suspend further action in the forfeiture proceedings.
Ogungbeje at the resumed hearing of the case on May 5 had argued that proceedings be suspended pending the outcome of the Osinbajo-led three-man panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the claim by the suspended NIA Director General, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, that the money belonged to the agency.
However, at the resumed hearing Tuesday, Justice Hassan dismissed the application for lacking in merit.
A statement by EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said the judge described the application as totally strange, adding that Ogungbeje had no right to seek a stay of proceedings in the case, since he did not appeal against the interim forfeiture order.
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.
Thereafter, Justice Hassan gave an order permanently forfeiting the funds to the federal government.
Justice Hassan was quoted in the statement as saying: “I am in complete agreement with the submission of the learned counsel for the applicant (EFCC) that the property sought to be attached are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities and that by every standard this huge sum of money is not expected to be kept without going through a designated financial institution; more so, nobody has shown cause why the said sum should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Having regard to the foregoing, I have no other option but to grant this application as prayed.
“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.”
The judge made the same order in respect of the £27,800 and N23,218,000.
Following the judgment, Idris Mohammed, counsel to the EFCC, urged the court to award a cost of N5 million against Ogungbeje for wasting the time of the court with his application.
However, the judge declined the application.
A day after the discovery of the money, the EFCC had sought for and obtained an interim forfeiture order from the court, despite the admission by Oke that the funds belonged to his agency and had been kept in the apartment for covert projects in Lagos and the South-west.
In granting the interim forfeiture, Justice Hassan had given 14 days for anyone interested in the cash haul to show up before it to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
At the next adjourned date on May 5, counsel to the EFCC, Oyedepo had revealed that Oke’s wife had paid $1.658 million to acquire the Ikoyi flat in Osborne Towers.
Mrs. Oke was said to have made a cash payment of $1.658 million for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015, in the name of a company, Chobe Ventures Limited.
She and her son, Ayodele Oke Junior, were said to be the directors in the company.
Mrs. Oke was also said to have made the cash payment in tranches of $700,000, $650,000 and $353,700 to a Bureau de Change, Sulah Petroleum and Gas Limited, which later converted the money to N360,000,000 and subsequently paid it to Fine and Country Limited, a real estate firm, for the purchase of the property.
Oyedepo had argued that “the circumstances leading to the discovery of the huge cash stockpiled in Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, leaves no one in doubt that the act was pursuant to an unlawful activity”.
He added: “The very act of making a cash payment of $1.658 million without going through any financial institution by Mrs. Folashade Oke for the acquisition of Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, is a criminal act punishable by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act.
“I refer My Lord to Sections 1(a), 16(d) and 16(2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act.”
While urging the court to order the permanent forfeiture of the funds to the federal government, Oyedepo further argued that the property, which was purchased in a criminal manner, made the money recovered therein proceeds of an unlawful act.
He had contended that despite the newspaper advertisement of the initial order of April 13, 2017, temporarily forfeiting the money to the federal government, no one showed up in court to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
Oyedepo had also drawn the attention of the court to the fact that Chobe Ventures Limited, in whose apartment the huge sums were recovered, did not come to court to challenge the forfeiture order, despite being served with the motion on notice at its registered address of No. 18 Ogunmodede Street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos.
He added: “Given the failure of Chobe Ventures Limited, in whose custody these properties we are seeking to forfeit were found, to show cause before My Lord why the property (money) should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Your Lordship should hold that Chobe Ventures Limited has admitted all the facts deposed to in our affidavit and order the final forfeiture of the property to the federal government.”
During the proceedings, however, Ogungbeje had filed an application urging the court to suspend further action in the forfeiture proceedings pending the outcome of the Osinbajo-led three-man panel constituted by the president to investigate the claim by the NIA boss, Oke, that the money belonged to the agency.
But Oyedepo opposed Ogungbeje’s application and urged the court to proceed with the final forfeiture proceedings.
His request was granted by Justice Hassan Tuesday.
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.
The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.
In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.
SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.
“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”
COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.
In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.
“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.
“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom
Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.
The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.
He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.
The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.
The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.
“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.
“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.
“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.
“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.
Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.
“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”
He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.
“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.
“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.
“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.
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