Efforts by Mr. Olajide Omokore, an ally of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to recover his properties forfeited to the federal government have hit a brick wall, as a Federal High Court in Lagos has struck out a suit filed to that effect.
Omokore had filed the suit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking to secure the release of his properties temporarily forfeited to the federal government by a court order.
When the matter was mentioned yesterday, Omokore’s lawyer, O. Achimiwu, told the court that his client was seeking to discontinue the matter against the EFCC.
He, however, did not give a reason for the discontinuance as there was no legal representation for EFCC.
Consequently, the presiding judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, struck out the case.
In an affidavit earlier sworn in support of the suit by a lawyer, Tosin Samuel Alawode, and filed before the court by R. A. Lawal-Rabana (SAN), the deponent (on behalf of Omokore) had averred that the allegations levied against Omokore and two companies, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited, in which he has vested interest, by the EFCC were in relation to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) Limited.
The deponent had stated that it was in respect to the breach of specific terms of the contract agreement embodied in a Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAA), between Omokore’s firms and NPDC on eight oil blocks.
The deponent stated that under the SAA, the companies were obliged to render some services to NPDC, the upstream subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and also remit some monies accruing from the services to the federal government through NPDC.
He added that the contract agreement was on-going and being performed until it was alleged that the companies were in default of certain sums of remittances.
Based on the differences and disagreement over remittances, the parties were already in the process of agreeing on the terms of unremitted payment to resolve the issue when EFCC waded into the matter and said it was investigating the contract agreement, which was contrary to the provisions under SAA for parties to go to arbitration to resolve their differences.
The deponent further averred that the intervention of EFCC scuttled all efforts to resolve the differences amicably.
Subsequently, Omokore was invited and interrogated by the EFCC, and thereafter, arraigned before Justice Binta Nyako at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The deponent averred further that before the companies entered into the SAA, Omokore was already a successful businessman in the oil and gas sector and had acquired assets and properties legitimately, and that he acquired all the assets, properties and documents listed before the court and not from any proceeds of illegality or violation of any law.
The deponent revealed that in the course of investigations, Omokore’s residence/office was raided by officials of the EFCC, and under the guise of exercising their powers, carted away and seized all the items listed before the court.
He said some of the assets, properties and documents belonge to Omokore’s wife, while some belonge to staff of the companies and his associates, none of whom was investigated or charged along with him in connection with the allegation against him.
The deponent stated that after he had written a letter to EFCC through his solicitors, Aluko and Oyebode, demanding the release of all the items, the EFCC failed to respond to the letter.
Omokore contended that the properties were not and could not have been classified as proceeds of any violation of the EFCC Act or any of other law, having been acquired legitimately before the SAA leading to the allegations.
Consequently, in the interest of justice and fairness, Omokore had urged the court for a declaration that the EFCC could not under the guise of section 28 and 29 of EFCC Act have seized and asked for a forfeiture of his assets to federal government.
He had also asked for a declaration that the dispute arising from the allegation of breach of contract, particularly failure of a party to discharge his/her obligations and or indebtedness to an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria under a specific contract agreement, could not be classified as a financial crime.
He also sought an order directing EFCC to release and return forthwith, all the properties listed before the court to him, as they were assets and properties not shown to have been the proceeds of any alleged financial crime for which he is being prosecuted.
The EFCC did not file any response to the suit.