Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja has heard claims and counter claims over the ownership of the allegedly stolen $376, 120, which is approximately N136, 155, 440 million, which was up for final forfeiture to the federal government.
The court had earlier issued an interim forfeiture order upon an ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which required the commission to publish the order in a national daily with a 14 days window for any person who has interest in the money to show cause.
At the resumed hearing last Monday, prosecution counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, told the court that the commission had complied with the order of the court.
“We have duly complied with the court order by publishing the interim forfeiture order in Leadership Newspaper, and we have filed affidavit of compliance to that effect,” he said.
But counsel to the former General Officer Commanding (GOC), 8 Division of the Nigerian Army, Sokoto, Maj. Gen. Hakeem Otiki, Olalekan Ojo (SAN), told the court that his client had filed a motion on February 5, 2020, and deposed to an affidavit to show that the alleged money belonged to him, his company and family.
The affidavit deposed by one Otiki Kaltume Asabe showed the interested parties in the alleged money as Karama Bureau de Change, Maj. H.O. Otiki, Otiki Kudirat, Otiki Kaltume Asabe, Otiki Zainab, Otiki Abdul and Danest Nigeria Limited, as first to seventh interested parties.
Asabe also claimed in her affidavit that she was a shareholder and a member of Board of Directors of Karama Bureau de Change Limited and Danest Nigeria Limited (1st and 7th interested parties)
She also stated that her affidavit had approval of the other interested parties as well as the detailed permission of the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th interested parties, who were fellow shareholders and directors of the first and seventh interested parties.
According to Asabe, the alleged sum of $376, 120, seized by the EFCC from a Kaduna-based bureau de change operator and a business associate of the first interested party, Aliyu Ado, and his son, Aliyu, was money that accrued from the business capital of the first interested party.
She said the money was a legitimate income of the second interested party and other shareholders and also from the business capital of first interested party.
There was, however, a twist to the development when counsel to the Nigerian Army, Saleh Abdulaziz, told the court that the said money rather belonged to the Nigerian army.
A Master Warrant Officer in the Nigerian Army, Mwo Ato Joseph, in an affidavit to buttress his claim, told the court that the Nigeria army was recovering monies and properties of the 8 Division from all the parties involved in the theft and embezzlement of funds of the division, adding that the former GOC Otiki was among the suspects in the alleged fraud.
Joseph stated that Otiki assumed duty as G.O.C of 8 Division on March 23, 2019, and received all notices of cash payments and deposits from the Army Finance Corp, army aeadquarters, and directed the disbursements and transfers of money within the division.
“I know for a fact from my investigations that the sum of $376, 120, which the EFCC seeks to be forfeited to the federal government is part of the money released to the officer as the GOC of 8 Division of the Nigerian Army, which same was converted into dollars by Alhaji Ado Aliyu for the officer,” he said.
Justice Ojukwu adjourned the matter till April 9, 2010, for hearing of the applicants’ motion on notice on the final forfeiture.