Court Orders Final Forfeiture of Funds Traced to former Zamfara Gov

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By Alex Enumah

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday ordered the final forfeiture of funds linked with former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari’s in Zenith Bank and Polaris Bank.

Justice Ojukwu made the order after holding that the former governor had failed to show cause why the order sought by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should not be granted.

The seized sum include $56, 056.75 in Polaris Bank account and N12.9 million, N11.2 million, 301, 319.99 dollars; N217, 388.04 and $311, 872.15 dollars in different Zenith Bank accounts in the name of Yari and his companies.

The ICPC had instituted a suit, praying the court for the former governor to show cause why the money under investigation should not be finally forfeited to the federal government.

The anti-graft agency had accused the governor of committing the alleged crime when he served as governor of Zamfara State between May 2011 and May 2019.

Yari was the 1st respondent in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/916/2019, his two companies; Kayatawa Nigeria Ltd and B. T. Oil and Gas Nigeria Ltd were 2nd and 3rd respondents, respectively.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo had, on August 16. 2019, granted the order for interim forfeiture of the assets in an exparte motion brought by the commission’s lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha.

Justice Taiwo also ordered the ICPC to publish same in national dailies for any interested party to show cause while the money should not be finally forfeited to the federal government.

The anti-graft agency had alleged that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activity.

It accused Yari of illicitly taking the money from the state’s coffers while he was governor.

According to the commission, the victim of the alleged crime is the Zamfara State government and by extension the Federal Government of Nigeria and innocent taxpayers which include judges of courts across Nigeria.

It alleged that the former governor used the two companies to launder money in the state account.

In his arguments, Yari said there was no case of prima facie against him before the interim order of forfeiture was granted.

The former governor said the action negated the principle of fair hearing.

Yari, who claimed that he was rich before becoming the governor of the state, urged the court to dismiss the interim order earlier granted against him.

Delivering the judgment, Ojukwu queried how one of Yari’s company’s bank accounts grew from zero to $301,319 at the end of his tenure.

She said Yari could not present convincing evidence that the money under investigation was his.

The judge, who dismissed the allegation that the action was a political witch-hunt, held that the suit was not instituted by a political party but a federal government agency charged with the mandate to carry out such duties.

She said that right to fair hearing did not necessarily mean oral hearing.

According to her, fair hearing can be in form of writing, and whether the party has been afforded the opportunity.

The judge, therefore, held that the right to fair hearing of the respondent (Yari) was not breached by the commission.

She queried why the sum of N350 million was transferred to Yari by the then permanent secretary on the eve of his leaving office.

Ojukwu also held that Yari failed to disclose his directorship of the companies and could not state clearly how the inflows in the accounts legitimately emanated.

Justice Ojukwu then ordered that the entire sum be forfeited to the federal government.