The Appeal Court yesterday dismissed an appeal filed by a former minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, seeking to recover her jewelry worth $40 million which was forfeited to the federal government.
The Lagos division of the appellate court, in its judgment read by Justice Festus Obande, ruled that the appeal lacked merit.
Accordingly, the court upheld the judgment of Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court which ordered the final forfeiture of the jewelry based on an application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The appellate court held that there was no substance in Alison-Madueke’s bid to overturn the lower court’s order and subsequently dismissed the move.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that Justice Oweibo had on July 19, 2019 granted final forfeiture of the expensive items to the federal government.
The jewelry ware categorised into 33 sets by the anti-graft agency, including 419 expensive bangles, 315 expensive rings, 304 expensive earrings, 267 expensive necklaces, 189 expensive wristwatches, 174 expensive necklaces and earrings, 78 expensive bracelets, 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.
According to the commission, the items were seized from the former minister’s premises at Number 10, Frederick Chiluba Close, Asokoro, Abuja.
The Federal High Court had in July 2019 held that the former minister failed to show cause why the jewelry should not be forfeited to the government.
While moving the application, EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had told the court that the items were reasonably suspected to have been acquired with the proceeds of unlawful activities of the former minister.
Also in an affidavit filed in support of the application and deposed to by an investigator with the EFCC, Rufai Zaki, the anti-graft agency had insisted that the jewelry were beyond the former minister’s “known and provable lawful income.”
Zaki had told the court that findings by the EFCC showed that she started acquiring the jewelry in 2012, two years after she was appointed minister.
The investigator stated that the EFCC was in possession of the details of the bank account through which Mrs Alison-Madueke received her salary as a minister.
“The respondent did not utilise her salary or any part of her legitimate income to acquire the assets sought to be forfeited to the federal government of Nigeria,” Zaki said.
He said a “damning intelligence report” received by the commission led to the search of the former minister’s house.
The former minister on her part had challenged the seizure of the jewelry from her premises by the EFCC.
But in an affidavit filed on her behalf by her counsel, Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), Diezani, who is currently in the United Kingdom, alleged that the EFCC violated her fundamental right to own property and to appropriate them at her discretion under Sections 43 and 44 of the constitution.
She also accused the anti-graft agency of entering her apartment illegally and taking the items without any court order.