By Alex Enumah
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, granted an order of interim forfeiture of N510 million to the federal government.
The amount is said to belong to the former Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF), AVM Uko Ebong.
The order of temporary seizure was sequel to an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The counsel to the EFCC, Ekele Iheanacho, had told the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, that the money was traced to an account with the name, Elioenai International College, allegedly owned by the former Air Chief.
The applicant further told the court that the money formed part of the N731million allegedly paid to Ebong, through a company, Magnificent 5 Ventures Limited, linked to him from the office of the former National Security Adviser (ONSA) without any contractual agreement.
According to the EFCC, AVM Ebong was the Commander PAF between 2013 and July 2015.
Delivering ruling in the exparte motion on Monday, Justice Mohammed said he was convinced that the EFCC had made out a case to warrant the grant of the interim forfeiture order.
“An order is hereby made for the interim forfeiture of the sum of N510,000,000 in Sterling Bank account No: 0029581583 recovered by the applicant, which funds are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities,” he ruled.
Mohammed further ordered the EFCC to publicise the said order and for anyone who is interested in the funds in respect of which the order was made, to appear before the court and show cause, within 14 days, why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The EFCC, in an affidavit in support of the motion, claimed that Ebong, while being a public officer managed and used private companies to carry out financial transactions while concealing his identity.
The said companies include Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd, Tripple Kay Company Nigeria Ltd and Elionenai International College Ltd.
“Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd is a company registered with the CAC. Though directors of the company on paper are Mrs. Ebong Mercy Uko (the wife of AVM Ebong) and Ekpo Ubong Asuquo (AVM’s in-law i.e brother to AVM’s wife); AVM Ebong controlled the financial dealings of the company.
“Without any contractual agreement, a total sum of N731,000, 000.00 was paid to Magnificent 5 Ventures Limited between May 2014 and October 2014 by the ONSA under the guise of payment for renovation of PAF barracks, PAF staff quarters.
“There is no proof of any work carried out by Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd based on which the above payments were made to it.
“The payments were made into the Sterling Bank Plc Account No. 0026142493 operated by Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd. Mrs. Ebong Mercy Uko and her brother Ekpo Ubong Asuquo are also the signatories to the said Bank account of Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd,” the EFCC added.