$43m: Court orders temporary forfeiture of Ikoyi flat

Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court, Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 were discovered in iron cabinets and “Ghana-must-go” bags in April. The money is said to belong to the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The court ordered the forfeiture of the building to the Federal Government yesterday following an ex parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

On June 7, Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court ordered the permanent forfeiture of the fund recovered from the apartment.

EFCC had on April 13 obtained an interim court order temporarily forfeiting the funds to the Federal Government.

Justice Hassan granted the interim order and gave 14 days for anyone interested in the funds to appear before him to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

But on May 5, 2017 when the matter came up, no one came before the judge to claim the money.

However, a private legal practitioner, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, who is also counsel to the suspected kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, a.k.a Evans, appeared before the judge with an application urging the judge to suspend the final forfeiture proceedings pending when a three-man panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in relation to the funds would submit its report.

The panel, headed by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was to probe the claim and counter-claim of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and Rivers State Government to the funds.

But the EFCC opposed Ogungbeje’s application and urged Justice Hassan to dismiss it and go ahead with the forfeiture proceedings.

Ruling on the application, Justice Hassan upheld the EFCC’s submission and dismissed Ogungbeje’s application for lack of merit. The judge described the application as totally strange, noting that having not appealed against the interim forfeiture order, Ogungbeje had no right to seek a stay of proceedings in the case.

The judge, who noted that Ogungbeje was not a party in the suit filed by the EFCC, described the lawyer as a meddlesome interloper and a busybody, adding that his application was strange to law.

In an attempt to recover the fund, the EFCC named the wife of the sacked director general of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency, Folashade Oke, as the owner of the flat.

The anti graft agency said it found out that Mrs. Oke made a cash payment of $1.658m for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015.

She was said to have purchased the property in the name of a company, Chobe Ventures Limited, to which she and her son, Master Ayodele Oke Junior, were directors.

Payment for the purchase of the flat was said to have been made to one Fine and Country Limited.

The EFCC stated that Mrs. Oke made the cash payment in tranches of $700,000, $650,000 and $353,700 to a Bureau de Change company, Sulah Petroleum and Gas Limited, which later converted the sums into N360,000,000, and subsequently paid it to Fine and Country Limited for the purchase of the property.

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