A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday ordered an interim forfeiture of landed property valued at N325.4 million allegedly belonging to former minister of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to the federal government.
Justice Babs Kuewunmi granted the order following a motion filed by Anselm Ozioko, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) concerning a vacant plot of land situated at Plot 13, Block 11, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos.
The EFCC said the property was reasonably suspected to be a proceed of unlawful activity.
Joined as defendants in the suit are Donald Chidi Amangbo and Mez Group Limited.
The EFCC, in its affidavit before the court, is also seeking an order authorising the Commission to appoint a competent person(s) or firm to manage the property.
Ozioko is also seeking an order of the court directing the EFCC to notify the person(s) in whose possession the property sought to be forfeited to appear before the court and show cause within 14 days why the property should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Alternatively, the EFCC wants an order directing the publication in any national newspaper of the interim order for persons in whose possession the property sought to be forfeited are found or anyone who is interested in the property sought to be forfeited to appear before the court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture should not be made.
According to a 27-page affidavit deposed to by one Abdulrasheed Bawa, a detective at the EFCC and filed before the court, it was averred that sometime in 2016 a search warrant was executed at the office and premises of Amamgbo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a known acquaintance of Alison-Madueke.
The EFCC said that during the search, some of the documents recovered from Amamgbo’s office included undated report titled “Highly Confidential Attorney Work Product- August Report.”
The EFCC said the report contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and United States of America.
The Commission further stated that in the course of his interview, Amamgbo said that he registered the 18 companies to assist Alison-Madueke in holding titles of her properties and that all belong to her.
The anti-graft agency added that among the properties on the list is a vacant plot of land at Plot 13 Block 11, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos, under the name of Mez Group LCC as the holding entity.
The EFCC said it consequently wrote a letter dated May 11, 2016, to the Oniru Chieftaincy Family Property Company for copies of the sales agreement /deed of lease and evidence of payment for the property while the Oniru responded by submitting a sub-lease agreement between Oniru and Skye Bank and a letter dated September 2, 2011, from Paul Osaji to Oniru requesting for the release of sublease agreement between the family and Mez Group LCC .
Also recovered from Amamgbo’s office, the EFCC said, is a letter dated September 5, 2011, from Oniru to Mez Group LCC titled ‘Collection of Deed of Sub-lease of the Property.’
The Commission said enquiries from Skye Bank Plc indicate that the bank bought the property from Oniru sometime in 2006, but sold it to Exclamation Nigeria Limited in 2008 and that in 2012 the property was purchased by Mez Group LCC through Paul Osaji & Co , Estate Surveyors and Valuers.
The affidavit further stated that Mr Osaji in his response to EFCC’s letter said among other issues that in 2010, the land was sold to Mez Group LCC for the sum of N325,400,000.
Mr Osaji was also said to have submitted letters which included sub-lease agreement between Oniru and Mez Group, copies of 19 First Bank of Nigeria Manager Cheques all dated December 24, 2010, with a total value N185,400,000 in favour of Exclamation Nigeria Limited, five Zenith Bank Plc Manager Cheques all dated November 9, 2010, with total value of N50,000,000, in favour of Exclamation Nigeria Limited.
Also recovered were five copies of UBA Plc Manager Cheques all dated November 8, 2010, with a total value of N90,000,000.
The applicant said among other investigation carried out, the Land Bureau in Alausa, Lagos, was written and the bureau confirmed that the land belongs to Mez Group.
Consequently, EFCC asked that the property be forfeited to the Federal Government in the interim.
After listening to the argument by counsel to EFCC, the judge granted the order of interim forfeiture of the property.
He also ruled that the order must be published in a national newspaper for any interested party to come forward and show cause why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The matter was adjourned till July 24.
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