A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday issued an interim order of forfeiture to the Federal Government of $153.3 million belonging to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke.
The monies were said to be domiciled with three Nigerian banks.
Justice Muslim Hassan gave the order following an exparte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The commission averred that out of the total sum, about N23 billion was domiciled with Sterling Bank Plc, N9 billion with First Bank Plc and about $5 million with Access Bank Plc.
After issuing the interim orders, the court also issued 14 days to Sterling Bank and any other interested party to appear and prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
In an affidavit filed in support of the application, an EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, claimed that the anti-graft agency discovered the fund through its investigations and communication between Alison-Madueke and the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo.
He said sometime in December 2014, Alison-Madueke invited Okonkwo to her office where they hatched the plan of how the cash would be moved from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to Okonkwo for safe-keeping.
According to him, Alison-Madueke instructed Okonkwo to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.
Awolusi said that Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal, leading to the movement of the sums from NNPC to Fidelity Bank.
He said that two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC helped Alison-Madueke to move the cash from NNPC in Abuja to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos.
The Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, moving the exparte application on Friday, urged the court to order an interim order of forfeiture.
He also urged the court to order Sterling Bank and others, including First Bank Plc, whose Executive Director, Dauda Lawal, was also implicated, and who were joined as defendants to appear in court and show why the funds should not be permanently forfeited.
Oyedepo brought his application pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and
Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2) of the 1999 Constitution, and argued that granting the application was in the interest of justice.
Justice Hassan, after listening to submissions, granted the orders.
He adjourned to the case to January 24 for the respondents to appear in court to show why the funds should not be permanently forfeited.
Our error: In the initial story, we referred to Nnamdi Okonkwo as a former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank. That is a factual error. Okonkwo is still the Bank’s MD. We regret the error.