Court Orders Final Forfeiture of Ex-Minister, Diezani’s N34bn To FG
(EFCC Press Release) Justice Muslim Sulaiman Hassan of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday, February 16, 2017 ordered the final forfeiture of the various sums of money-N23, 446, 300,000, N9, 080,000,000 and $5m( over N34bn)- linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The court had, on January 6, 2017, given an order of interim forfeiture on the money, following an ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking a similar relief.
At the last adjourned sitting on January 24, 2017, Justice Hassan had fixed February 16, 2017(today) for judgment in the case, after the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo and Charles Adeogun Phillips, counsel to the second respondent, Dauda Lawal, had both argued their cases.
However, at today’s hearing, counsel to the second respondent submitted that he wanted ‘‘a common sense approach to resolving the matter’’, after filing two fresh applications for ‘‘abridgement of time’’ and further counter- affidavit on February 8, 2017.
He further told the court that the value of the N9, 080,000,000, which was the proceeds of illegal activity linked to his client, had changed from what it was last year.
‘‘For as long as this matter is tied to litigation, the value will continue to diminish
‘‘In the spirit of peace, we are currently exploring reconciliatory talks towards seeking an amiable settlement in this matter,’’ he said.
He, therefore, pleaded with the court for a stay of judgment for 30 days to allow the parties seek amicable settlement in the matter.
In his reaction, however, prosecution counsel said that he had filed a counter- affidavit to ‘‘some strange applications’’ he received from the counsel to the second respondent.
Oyedepo further urged the court to strike out both applications filed by the counsel to the second respondent if the intention was to keep the applications in abeyance.
‘‘It is to arrest your Lordship’s judgment fixed for today. It is like the case of a woman in the delivery room being invited to attend a wedding. If she must attend the wedding, she must first be delivered of the baby.
‘‘Your lordship had given both of us fair hearing in this proceedings. You had listened to our arguments and received affidavit evidence from us. So, I pray my Lord to remove this clog so that the coast will be clear for my Lord to deliver judgment,’’ he said.
Oyedepo also denied entering into agreement with the counsel to the second respondent for settlement.
According to him, ‘‘My employer has not given me any such information that there is any discussion with the second respondent for settlement. The opportunity to be discussing settlement had been forfeited.’’
Oyedepo, who stated that the prayer by counsel to the second respondent was a violent abuse of the court process, said the defendant did not appeal against the ruling of January 24, 2017 or filed an application setting it aside.
After listening to both counsel, Justice Hassan stood down the matter in order to rule on the applications.
In his ruling, Justice Hassan dismissed the application of the counsel to the second respondent on the grounds that it was an after-thought.
‘‘It will be prejudicial to allow the application to stay. I will not grant an amendment if the essence is to over-reach the respondent,’’ he said.
While delivering his judgment later, Justice Hassan ordered that the sum of N23, 446, 3000 and $5m should be forfeited to the Federal Government.
He further said that there was no evidence that the sum of 9.8bn linked to the second respondent was given to him by friends and family.
The former Minister had allegedly siphoned the money from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation ,NNPC, and stashed in three banks, including Sterling Bank Plc.