EFCC Secures Freezing Order on Accounts Linked to Ambode over Alleged N9.9bn Fraud

Akinwunmi Ambode

•Appeal Court refers Sanwo-Olu’s victory petition back to tribunal

Davidson Iriekpen

The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the freezing of three accounts allegedly belonging to the Lagos State Government over alleged N9.9 billion fraud.

Justice Chuka Obiozor made the order following an ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

This is coming as the Court of Appeal in Lagos yesterday ordered the Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Ikeja to resume hearing on two petitions challenging Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s victory at the March 9 governorship election.

He ordered the accounts’ “suspension” pending conclusion of investigation and possible prosecution of Adewale Adesanya, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Chief of Staff to former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

The accounts are domiciled in First City Monument Bank (numbered 5617984012), Access Bank (0060949275) and Zenith Bank (1011691254).
In a supporting affidavit, an EFCC investigator, Kungmi Daniel, said the commission discovered huge inflow of N9,927,714,443.29 from the state accounts into the FCMB account.

It said the account, operated by Adesanya, was opened last September 17 during the Ambode administration.
According to the deponent, investigators found that Adesanya and other signatories made fraudulent transfers from the state’s accounts and dissipated the funds.

“The trend is that the account always witnessed huge inflow from Lagos State Government in the above scheduled accounts managed by the respondent (Adesanya).

“There have been concerted efforts and attempts to dissipate the contents of the accounts listed in the schedule to this application.

“Without freezing the nominated accounts and temporarily forfeiting the money to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no way the fraud being perpetrated using the scheduled accounts can be stopped,” the EFCC said.

EFCC counsel, Mohammed Abbas, urged the court to grant the order temporarily attaching the accounts to enable it to conclude its investigations.
Justice Obiozor granted the prayers and adjourned until Friday.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Lagos yesterday ordered the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Ikeja to resume hearing on two petitions challenging Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s victory at the March 9 governorship election.

A five-man panel of the court led by Justice Hussein Mukthar, in a unanimous decision, allowed the two petitions.
They were filed by the defeated governorship candidates of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos State, Mr. Owolabi Salis, and his Labour Party counterpart, Ifagbemi Awamaridi, respectively.

Other members of the panel were Justices O.O Daniel-Kalio, O.F Ogbuinya, Stephen Adah and B.B Aliyu.
The appellate court, in two similar judgments, had upturned the June 17 decision of the tribunal, which dismissed the petitions filed by Salis and Awamaridi.
The tribunal upturned the decision on the grounds that both petitioners failed to file their applications for pre-hearing conference within seven days as prescribed by the law.

The Appeal Court held that the tribunal erred when it ruled that the appellants had abandoned their petitions.
It noted that the tribunal failed to check its own record of proceedings before determining that Salis and Awamaridi filed out of time.
“From the record, it is clear that the tribunal was wrong to have declared the petition as an abandoned petition.

“The case is to be remitted to the lower court for expeditious hearing of the matter,” the court held on Owolabi’s appeal.
The court’s ruling was also similar on Awamaridi’s appeal.
The respondents in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sanwo-Olu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner.

On June 17, the tribunal led by its chairman, Justice TT Asua, dismissed the petitions filed by the AD and the LP.
The three-man panel of the tribunal had noted then that timely application for a pre-hearing conference was a condition to the hearing of the petitions.
It held among other things that without the application for pre-hearing conference, the petition would not begin or get to the stage of judgment.