The Court of Appeal Sitting in Lagos has upheld the judgement of a Federal High Court which ordered the permanent forfeiture of a sum of N1.4bn which a firm, Melrose General Services Limited obtained from the Nigeria Governors Forum through false claims.
Melrose General Services Limited is allegedly linked to the outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and two of his aides Gbenga Makanjuola and Kolawole Shittu are being prosecuted by the EFCC in a separate matter for the alleged diversion of some of the funds.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos had on April 27, 2018, ordered the final forfeiture of the said N1.4billion to the Federal Government.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, Melrose General Services approached the appellate court and asked it to set aside the verdict of Justice Olatoregun.
But in a unanimous judgment written by Justice Tijani Abubakar, the appeal court agreed with Justice Olatoregun that the money should be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judgment was read today by Justice Ebiowei Tobi and the third member of the panel was Justice Obaseki-Adejumo.
The appeal court resolved all the issues in contention in favour of the EFCC and held that Melrose’s appeal lacked merit. The company was subsequently ordered to pay N100,000 to the EFCC.
In arriving at its decision, the appeal court held that Melrose Ltd could not show that the said funds were lawfully earned by it.
It added that section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, 2006, which the EFCC relied on to seek for the forfeiture of the funds was Constitutional.
According to the Court of Appeal, Melrose was not denied fair hearing in the matter.
The EFCC through its counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, had claimed that Melrose obtained N3.5bn from the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, by making false claims.
Lawyer to the Melrose, Mr Olawale Akoni (SAN), objected and argued that his clients were not given fair hearing during the proceedings at the lower court
Apart from Melrose, the EFCC had also listed WASPS Network Ltd and Thebe Wellness Services as defendants in the forfeiture suit.
The firms were accused of impersonating a consortium of consulting firms engaged by the NGF for the verification, reconciliation and recovery of over-deductions on Paris and London Club Loans on the accounts of states and local governments between 1995 and 2002.
But the EFCC insisted that the original firms engaged by the Governors Forum were GSCL Consulting and Bizplus Consulting Services Limited.
A top EFCC’s investigator Usman Zakari, who deposed to the affidavit for final forfeiture said that the alter ego of Melrose General Services Limited, Robert Mbonu, made a false representation to the Governors Forum, causing the forum to pay N3.5bn to his company on December 14, 2016.