The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja for a fresh order of interim forfeiture of six Lagos and Abuja properties linked to the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Despite that EFCC’s fresh application was filed “ex parte”, a sort of one-sided preliminary proceeding, and the commission’s claim that the properties had been unclaimed, Fayose had, through the law firm of Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed a preliminary objection to challenge the forfeiture hearing.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, before whom the fresh application was filed last month, had, on July 20, 2016, granted the EFCC an order of interim forfeiture of the properties for only 45 days.
The commission also subsequently, on November 3, 2016, obtained a similar order from Justice Okon Abang, who was then permanently sitting in the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
With the later redeployment of Justice Abang to Delta State, the EFCC, through its counsel, Mr. Offem Uket, last month, filed the ex parte application, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/388/18, asking Justice Dimgba to “vacate” the earlier order made by Justice Abang and impose a fresh order of interim forfeiture of the properties.
The commission claimed that “the properties are under the possession and control of the EFCC and have remained unclaimed, as no person, including the suspects, has indicated interest in them, after the said properties were marked with the words, ‘UNDER EFCC INVESTIGATION’.”
Four of the properties in question, numbered as Chalets 3, 4, 6 and 9, are each four-bedroomed.
The four chalets are said to be located at Plot 100 Tiamiyu Salvage, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The two other properties are located at 44 Osun Crescent and Plot 1504 Yerdseram Street, both in Maitama, Abuja.
The commission stated as part of the grounds for its fresh application that the properties were acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities, involving funds fraudulently transferred from the Office of the National Security Adviser.
It said in the application that the properties were subjects of pending criminal trial involving the funds allegedly transferred from ONSA’s account.
The property at Plot 1504 Yerdseram Street, in Maitama, Abuja, was said to have been acquired in the name of Spotless Investment Limited, a company whose bank account is said to be run by Fayose and his wife.While the other Abuja property at 44 Osun Crescent, Maitama, Abuja, was said to be acquired in the name of one Mrs. Moji Ladeji, the four chalets in Lagos were said to be “acquired in the name of J. J. Technical Limited”.
An associate of the Ekiti State governor, Abiodun Agbele, and Spotless Investment Limited are being prosecuted alongside two other companies on charges involving the sum of N1,219,000,000 said to be part of a total N4,685,723,000,000, allegedly taken fraudulently from ONSA’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2014.
The two other companies along with whom Agbele and Spotless Investments Limited are being prosecuted are Sylvan Mcnamara Limited, linked to a former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, and his sons and De Privateer Limited run by Agbele.
It was alleged that the funds were released in June 2014 to fund Fayose’s governorship election.
While insisting that the properties, which their forfeiture to the Federal Government was being sought were subjects of the ongoing criminal trial, the EFCC explained that the funds from ONSA’s account was fraudulently transferred to Sylvan Mcnamara Limited (Obanikoro’s company).
It said, “The properties sought to be forfeited are reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities derived from funds fraudulently transferred from the Office of the National Security Adviser to the account of Sylvan Mcnamara Ltd.
“The funds transferred to Sylvan Mcnamara Limited were later trailed to the personal accounts and companies associated to Messrs Ayodele Fayose and Abiodun Agbele.
“That there is the need to grant the interim forfeiture order to enable the properties/funds listed in the schedule above to be forfeited to the Federal Government.
“That part of the funds fraudulently transferred from the Office of the National Security Adviser was found to have been used by Spotless Investment Ltd to liquidate a loan facility it had earlier obtained from the bank.”
Last month, a lawyer from Ozekhome’s law firm, Mr. Mr. Godwin Iyinbor, appeared in the case for Fayose “in protest” against the proceedings.
He noted that he had filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the EFCC’s motion ex parte.
Uket, who acknowledged that he had been served Iyinbor’s preliminary objection, objected the protesting lawyer being heard since the motion being considered was ex parte.
But Justice Dimgba said he would hear Iyinbor since the issues raised had to do with the court’s jurisdiction.
He adjourned till September 27 to hear all pending motions altogether. (Punch)