Intrigues are developing around the $153 million found in several bank accounts alleged to belong to former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The temporary forfeiture order placed on the funds has been challenged by the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, of First Bank Plc, Mr. Dauda Lawal.
Lawal also in a counter-affidavit filed through his lawyer, Mr. Charles Adeogun, before the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday, demanded to have possession of $40million of the $153 million.
Lawal, who said although he received $25million out of the money for certain services he rendered, also claimed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested him and made him sign under duress to return $65million.
According to him, the agency subsequently took possession of the $40m in draft and registered it as exhibit EFCC 03.
The EFCC had claimed that Diezani siphoned $153million out of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and stashed it in three banks in the country.
But, Diezani in a statement from her London base has denied any such thing maintaining that the anti-graft agency was lying against her, and simply prosecuting her in the public and media space without evidence.
The anti-graft agency had on January 6 approached Justice Muslim Hassan and got an interim order instructing that the funds be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Hassan had adjourned till January 24 after giving the order, and asked Lawal, and any other party interested in the money to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the money.
He had then said that failure for anybody to prove the legitimacy of the $153million would mean permanently forfeiting it to the Federal Government.
As soon as the case was called up on Tuesday, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, told the judge that in obedience with the court order that copies of the forfeiture order had been served on the respondents and also published in the Daily Independent Newspaper on January 12.
Adeogun, counsel to Lawal who acknowledged that he has been served, told the presiding judge that he had already filed a counter-affidavit, deposed to by Lawal himself, challenging same.
He told the court that while it was true his client admitted receiving only $25million for discharging particular duties, the EFCC coerced him to admit receiving a total of $65million, he therefore asked the court to mandate the commission to release the excess $40million to his client.
He argued that the undertaking signed by his client in the EFCC custody was involuntary.
“We became aware of the forfeiture order when the interim order was served on us. My client was never confronted with these sets of facts during his incarceration at the EFCC. After service of the orders, I requested the statement of my client to the commission, but same was never given to me,” Adeogun said.
In his response, Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC maintained that Diezani laundered the said $153million in conspiracy with Lawal and others.
“My Lord, paragraph 4 of our reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of one Gbenga Komolafe, former Group MD, Crude Oil Marketing Division, NNPC; Prince Haruna Momoh, a former Group MD, Petroleum Product Marketing Company; Umar Farouk Ahmed, Group MD, Nigerian Product Marketing Company; as well as Dauda Lawal, to launder the funds on behalf of the former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“It will amount to contesting the obvious for Lawal to argue that he had no knowledge of the said sums,” Oyedepo said.
Justice Hassan fixed February 16, 2017 for judgment.
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