Court Orders Interim Forfeiture Of N325m Land Linked To Diezani
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture to the Federal Government of a landed property valued at N325,400,000 and said to belong to the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Babs Kuewumi granted the order of temporary forfeiture of the property, after listening to a motion ex-parte filed and argued by the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Anselem Ozioko.
In the Motion ex-parte, the EFCC is seeking an interim order of the court forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the property described as a vacant plot of land and said to be at Plot 13, Block 11, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos
The EFCC said the property is reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.
Other defendants in the suit are, Mr Donald Chidi Amamgbo and Mez Group Limited.
In a 27-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Abdulrasheed Bawa, a detective of the EFCC and filed before the court, the commission says that sometime in 2016, a search warrant was executed at the office and premises of one Mr Donald Chidi Amamgbo, a known acquaintance of Mrs Alison-Madueke.
The commission said that during the search, some of the documents recovered from Amamgbo’s office included an undated report titled “Highly Confidential Attorney Work Product – August Report”.
The EFCC said the report contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and United States of America.
It was also claimed that in the course of his interview, Amamgbo told the anti-graft agency that he registered the 18 companies to assist Mrs Alison-Madueke in holding titles of her properties and that all belongs to her.
The anti-graft agency added that among the properties on the list is; a vacant plot of land at Plot 13 Block 11, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos under the name of Mez Group LCC as the holding entity.
The EFCC said it consequently wrote a letter dated May 11, 2016, to the Oniru Chieftaincy Family Property Company for copies of the sales agreement /Deed of lease and evidence of payment for the property while the Onirus responded by submitting the following; a sub-lease agreement between Oniru and Skye Bank.
Also recovered from Amamgbo’s office is a letter dated September 5, 2011 from Oniru to Mez Group LCC titled “collection of Deed of sub-lease of the property”.
The commission said enquiries from Skye Bank Plc indicates that the bank bought the property from Oniru sometimes in 2006, but sold it to Exclamation Nigeria Limited in 2008 and that in 2012 the property was purchased by Mez Group LCC through Paul Osaji & Co, Estate Surveyors and Valuers.
The affidavit further stated that Paul Osaji in his response to EFCC’s letter said among others that in 2010, the land was sold to Mez Group LCC for the sum of N325,400,000.
Osaji was also said to have submitted a letter which includes sub-lease agreement between Oniru and Mez Group, copies of 19 First Bank of Nigeria manager cheques all dated 24th December, 2010 with a total value N185,400,000 in favour of Exclamation Nigeria Limited, five Zenith Bank Plc manager cheques all dated 9th November 2010 with total value of N50,000,000 , in favour of Exclamation Nigeria Limited.
Also recovered were five copies of UBA Plc manager cheques all dated 8th of November, 2010 with a total value of N90,000,000.
The applicant said among other investigations carried out, the Land Bureau in Alausa, Lagos was written and the bureau confirmed that the land belongs to Mez Group.
Consequently, the EFCC asked that the property be forfeited to the Federal Government in the interim.
After listening to the arguments from the counsel to EFCC, Justice Babs Kuewumi granted the application for interim forfeiture of the property to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Justice Kweuwumi further ruled that the order must be published in a national newspaper for anybody who has interest in the property sought to be forfeited to come forward and show cause why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The court then adjourned further proceedings to July 24.