Court orders permanent forfeiture of N7.6bn linked to former minister
FG asks US to stop providing safe haven for Nigerian loot
Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade and Paul Obi in Abuja
As calls for the extradition of former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke to Nigeria gathers pace, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said due process must be followed in demanding for her return.
Alison-Madueke, who is facing multiple corruption and money laundering allegations during her tenure as minister and is being investigated by the British and American authorities, has been living in the United Kingdom for two years where she is receiving treatment for cancer.
Speaking during a protest march to the EFCC headquarters by a group operating as â€œConcerned Nigeriansâ€ under a new hashtag,#BringBackDiezani, the EFCC insisted on adhering to the rule of law.
Speaking on behalf of Ibrahim Magu, acting EFCC chairman, the executive secretary of the commission, Emmanuel Aremo, stated that the anti-graft agency remained committed to the rule of law, as it remains the antidote to fighting corruption.
â€œLet us be patient and let us follow due process, we on our part will ensure that no stone is left unturned as we intensify the war against corruption,â€ he said.
Aremo also tasked the group, led by popular activists, Deji Adeyanju and Charles Oputa (better known as Charly Boy) not to relent in their support for the EFCC, adding that the anti-graft agency needs support across the board in the fight against corruption.
â€œI urge Nigerians to be patient because extradition requires a painstaking process that must be followed,â€ he said.
He assured them that the former minister would soon be extradited to face the corruption allegations against her.
While commending the EFCC for intensifying the fight against corruption, Charley Boy expressed concern that â€œit is not enough for Alison-Maduekeâ€™s assets to be forfeited, there should be a conviction.â€
Adeyanju called on the EFCC not to relent in prosecuting the fight against corruption, adding that after the two-day sit-out, which began yesterday at the EFCC headquarters, the group will take the protest calling for Alison-Maduekeâ€™s extradition, to the UK.
He said: â€œOur message is simple: since you donâ€™t want to assist the UK in prosecuting her, #BringBackDiezani. Also, prosecute everyone whether PDP or APC.
â€œDiezani is enjoying in London. Look at her press release the other day. She is practically laughing at Nigerians. You donâ€™t need Baba to give any instruction before you swing into action. Corruption is just everywhere,â€ he pointed out.
The groupâ€™s two-day sit-out at the EFCCâ€™s headquarters demanding for the former ministerâ€™s extradition to face the corruption allegations will continue tomorrow.
Charly Boy and Adeyanju had earlier staged a daily sit-out both in Nigeria and London under the group names, #ResumeorResignâ€ and â€œ#OurMumuDonDoâ€ against President Muhammadu Buhari which eventually led to the presidentâ€™s return to the country after being abroad for 103 days where he had been receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
But as the protesters demanded for Alison-Maduekeâ€™s extradition, a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the permanent forfeiture of yet another N7.64 billion linked to her to the federal government.
Justice Abdulazeez Anka gave the order following the application filed by the EFCC seeking the final and permanent forfeiture of the said sum to the federal government.
The anti-graft agency, in its supporting affidavit, averred that based on its investigation, it discovered that the N7.4 billion kept in the accounts of some banks were actually the proceeds of unlawful activities held and laundered through a former Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), former Managing Director of Petroleum Products Management Company (PPMC), Prince Haruna Momoh, and the Managing Director of Nigerian Products Marketing Company (NPMC), Umar Farouk Ahmed, on behalf of Alison-Madueke.
On August 9, 2017, a vacation judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor, had granted an order temporarily forfeiting the money to the federal government.
Justice Obiozorâ€™s order followed an ex parte application argued before him by the EFCC.
He adjourned till yesterday for the bank and any other interested party to appear before him to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The EFCC told the judge that the N7.64 billion was part of a sum of $153,310,000, which Alison-Madueke allegedly siphoned from the coffers of the NNPC sometime in 2014.
The anti-graft agency said she stashed the money in three banks, adding that the federal government had since February last year, through an order by Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos recovered part of the money from the other banks.
The anti-graft agency recalled that the federal government had recovered N23.4 billion, $5 million and another N9.08 billion of the $153.3million million.
It urged the court to order the banks to deliver up to the federal government the N7.6 billion still in their custody.
In an eight-paragraph affidavit, an operative of the EFCC, Usman Zakari, averred that the former petroleum minister laundered the money in connivance with other officials of the NNPC.
The same Justice Obiozor had also on August 7, 2017, ordered the permanent forfeiture to the federal government of a $37.5 million Banana Island property allegedly bought in 2013 by Alison-Madueke.
The property designated as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate, consists of 24 apartments, 18 flats, and six penthouses.
The judge also ordered that $2,740,197.96 and N84,537,840.70 realised as rent on the property be permanently forfeited to the government.
Last Tuesday, the Federal High Court in Lagos also ordered the interim forfeiture of 56 properties allegedly bought between 2011 and 2013 for $21,982,224 (N3.32 billion) by Alison Madueke.
Justice Abdulaziz Anka had adjourned until September 8 for anyone to show cause why the properties should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
On August 8, 2017, it was further revealed that the EFCC had traced N47.2 billion and $487.5million to the ex-minister.
The agency also claimed that the former minister had N23,446,300,000 and $5 million (about N1.5 billion) cash in various banks, which were yet to be forfeited.
The commission is also investigating properties in Britain and the United States she allegedly purchased with stolen government funds.
But despite the orders and revelations, Alison-Madueke who was a powerful member of former President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s cabinet from April 2010 to May 2015, has consistently denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the federal government has reached out to the government of the United States to assist it in stopping corrupt Nigerians from securing a safe haven for their loot abroad.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande said the vice-president made the remark during the visit of a US congressional delegation to the Presidential Villa yesterday in Abuja, pointing out that both countries were working together on the prompt repatriation of funds looted from Nigeria.
â€œWe have reached out to the US government with respect to helping with the repatriation of proceeds of crime and proceeds of corruption,â€ he was quoted as saying.
He added that Osinbajo was appreciative of the support of the US to the Nigerian government which he said viewed â€œcorruption as an existential threatâ€ that must be dealt with from its root.
â€œWe have worked quite closely with the US government on the repatriation of funds. We have seen some results.
â€œWe think that this is very important because what tends to happen with corrupt public officials is that if they are able to find a safe haven for the proceeds of their criminality, not only are they encouraged as individuals but there is the general feeling that if they are able to get the proceeds out of the country, they might just get away with it.
â€œThis is one of the reasons why we have taken several actions to ensure that we are able to deal with it because some of the major dislocations in the economy are on account of the problems that we have seen with corruption.
â€œThe most effective ways of fighting corruption is ensuring that these proceeds are unsafe and for people to know that they would be found out and they would be punished for it and we would seize whatever profit they had gained,â€ Osinbajo was quoted as saying.
The statement further said Senator Christopher Coons who led the delegation, disclosed that the visit was meant to affirm the relationship between Nigeria and the US, noting that his country has â€œan enduring enthusiasm and partnership with Nigeriaâ€.
He listed other members of the delegation to include Senators Gary Peters, Jeff Merkley, Michael Bennet, and members of the House of Representatives â€“ Lisa Blunt Rochester, Terri Sewell, Charlie Dent, Barbara Lee and Frederica Wilson. The congressional delegation was accompanied by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington.
Nigerian officials in attendance, according to the statement, were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffery Onyeama, Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babgana Monguno (rtd.), and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.