The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday granted the final forfeiture of the cash seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from an apartment in Ikoyi, to the Federal Government.
Justice Muslim Hassan, who had on April 13 granted a temporary forfeiture of the $43m, N23m and £27,800 discovered in the apartment, ordered the permanent forfeiture of the money after no one appeared to claim it or show cause why it shouldn’t be forfeited.
On the evening of Wednesday, April 12, the EFCC acting on intelligence reports from undisclosed sources raided Flat 7b, No. 16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, in the Ikoyi area of Lagos Island.
Armed with a search warrant, they proceeded to search the apartment and subsequently discovered huge sums of money in various currencies stashed under security locks in iron cabinets and “Ghana-must-go” sacks.
Less than 24 hours after the discovery, the anti-graft agency approached the Federal High Court also in the Ikoyi area to seek an order of interim forfeiture of the funds.
Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, via a motion exparte told Justice Muslim Hassan that officials of one AM facilities, managers of the apartment, could not provide the Commission with information on the possible owners of the money.
He urged the court to exercise the powers conferred on it by Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act. The section provides that where a property is found to be unclaimed or proceeds of an unlawful activity, the court can order its forfeiture to the Federal Government.
After considering this submission, Justice Muslim Hassan, granted the interim order.
The judge also directed the EFCC to advertise or publish the order in any national paper for any concerned party to see it and to appear before the court on May 5 to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
On May 5, no one came before the judge to claim the money but a private legal practitioner, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, approached the court, with an application, urging the judge to suspend the final forfeiture proceedings pending the report of a three-man panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in relation to the funds.
The panel, headed by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was to probe the claims of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and the Rivers State Government to the funds.
The court subsequently adjourned till the 6th of June for a ruling on the issue.
In its ruling, Justice Hassan upheld the EFCC’s objections to Mr Ogungbeje’s application and dismissed it for lack of merit.
The judge described the application as ‘totally strange’ and it described Mr Ogungbeje who was not a party in the suit filed by the EFCC, as a ”meddlesome interloper and a busybody”.
The court then advised the lawyer to explore the Freedom of Information Act for the findings of the VP’s panel.
With that application out of the way, Justice Hassan noted that that no one had appeared to show cause why the permanent forfeiture order should not be made.
He subsequently made an order for the final forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government.