A Federal High Court, Lagos, on Friday, permanently forfeited Flat 7B situated at No. 16, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the sum of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000, totaling N13 billion, was discovered on April 12, 2017, in iron cabinets and “Ghana-must-go” bags, to the Federal Government Nigeria.
The court presided over by Justice Saliu Saidu, gave the order of final forfeiture of the flat to the federal government of Nigeria, after dismissing Union Bank Plc’s application as the owner of the flat.
In dismissing the Union Bank Plc’s application, Justice Saidu described the bank as a busybody.
Union Bank Plc, had on January 11, through its application, filed and argued by its lawyer, Mr. E. N. Ayuba, had urged the court not to finally forfeit the flat to the Federal Government of Nigeria, as well as urged the court to discharge earlier interim order made on the flat on November 9, 2017.
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through its team of lawyers led by Rotimi Oyedepo, had urged the court to discountenance Union Bank Plc’s claim.
The flat where the money was dicovered, was said to belong to Mrs. Folashade Oke, the wife of the sacked Director General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke.
In urging the court for final forfeiture of the money, the EFCC through its lawyer, Oyedepo, had argued that Section 17 of The Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006 empowers the court to order the final forfeiture of the property.
He added that Section 44 (2) (k) of the Constitution also permits the take-over of a property in view of an enquiry.
The EFCC said the motion has its root in the Constitution and we urged the court to grant, and also argued that in view of the fact that Chobe Ventures which allegedly used proceeds of unlawful activities to acquire the property in issue had not controverted its averrements as to the source of the money”, he said.
Meanwhile, Union Bank Plc, which came to court as an interested party, had urged the court to discharge the interim order of forfeiture placed on the property.
The bank’s lawyer, Ayuba, had told Justice Saidu that his client filed the motion seeking the discharge of the interim order to protect its interest in the property.
The bank in an affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by one Alfred Olukayode Edun, argued that the forfeited flat was part of the property situated at 16, Osborne Rd, Ikoyi, Lagos, belonging to one, Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Muazu, by virtue of a certificate of occupancy dated 27th September, 2009 and registered as 97/97/2009 in the Lands Registry Office, Alausa, Lagos.
The bank also said Alhaji Muazu has already mortgaged the entire property to it by virtue of Tripartite Deed of Legal Mortgage dated November 1, 2011, in order to secure a loan granted to Tripple A. Properties & Investment Ltd.
The bank further claimed that the original titled deeds of the property has been vested in it while the loan is yet to be liquidated till date despite the fact that its tenor has expired.
The bank further claimed it sold the property to Chobe Ventures Ltd to liquidate the loan.
However, in its counter affidavit to the application, the EFCC argued that the bank lacks the ‘locus standi’ to challenge the forfeiture of property ‘reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities of Ambassador Ayo Oke and Mrs. Folashade Oke’.
The anti-graft agency in the affidavit deposed to by one, Mohammed Chiroma, argued that the funds used to acquire the property sought to be forfeited in the name of Chobe Ventures Limited belong to the Federal Government but was fraudulently converted to the company’s use.
The deponent further averred that if the property is finally forfeited to government, the right of Union Bank Plc, if any, in relation to the covenants in its deed of assignment with Chobe Ventures Limited will not be hampered in any manner.
The EFCC further claimed that having transferred its interest in the property sought to be forfeited to Chobe Ventures Limited, upon the receipt of a sufficient consideration, the bank has no legal right over the property again.
Delivering judgement on the suit of Friday, Justice Saidu described the Union Bank Plc, as a busybody, that has no interest in the property sought to be forfeited.
The judge then ordered that the property be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, adding that all parties have right of appeal.
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