BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to order the final forfeiture of the sums of N664,475,246 and $137,680.11 as well as property it recovered from a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Clement Illoh Onubuogo, to the federal government.
Justice Abdul-Azeez Anka had on August 17, 2017 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money, a property described as “Clement Illoh’s Mansion” located at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba in Delta State and a hotel at No. 19, Madue Nwafor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State, to the federal government.
Justice Anka who was sitting as a vacation judge had directed the EFCC to put the permanent secretary, in whose possession the property were found, on notice to enable him appear before the court and show cause within two weeks why they should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The court further ordered the anti-graft agency to publish the interim orders in any national daily to allow any interested party appear before him to show cause within two weeks why the order should not be made permanent.
During Friday’s proceedings before the new vacation judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor, EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, disclosed that a motion seeking the final forfeiture of the money and property to the federal government has been filed.
Oyedepo also disclosed that the motion brought pursuant to Section 17 (4) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences Act has been served on the permanent secretary, whom he said is yet to file a counter-affidavit.
The lawyer had earlier informed the court that as directed by Justice Anka, the EFCC had published the interim order on August 23.
In his response, counsel to the Permanent Secretary, T. S. Awhana, while acknowledging the receipt of the motion for final forfeiture, said he had already filed a counter-affidavit against it.
The lawyer added that he had equally filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to make the interim order.
According to him, it was improper for the commission to come before the Lagos State court when all transactions leading to the suit were conducted in Abuja.
Awhana also informed the court of the pendency of another application seeking to discharge the interim order which he claimed was fraudulently obtained by the EFCC.
He claimed that an attempt by a court’s bailiff to serve the processes on the EFCC was unsuccessful as an official of the commission he met at its office refused to accept the court papers.
The matter was consequently adjourned to September 22, to allow for exchange of processes between parties.
Arguing the ex-parte application dated August 15, 2017, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, alleged that the property were owned by the permanent secretary and were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of stealing.
According to him, the said N664,475,246.6 consisted of N437,348,181.16, N97,300,613.44 and N129,826,452.00, found in Onubuogo’s bank account in possession of fifteen persons working under his supervision at the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
The names of the fifteen individuals were given as Salisu Bala Kura, Rabiu Said, Tonye Isokeiri, Buhari Maaji Dahiru, John Isokwa Kanku, Ahmed Mahmud Muazu, Muktar Sufian, Udoh Nnamdi and Umar Bello Mashi.
Others are Salogu Karo, Usman Bello, Ahmed Mohammed Makki, Umar Abubakar, Aliyu Abubakar and Enape Victoria.
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