The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has asked Justice Nicholas Oweibo of a Federal High Court in Lagos to order the final forfeiture of $40 million worth of jewellery seized from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to the Federal Government.
EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, made the plea yesterday while arguing a motion seeking final forfeiture of 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised gold iPhone said to have been acquired by the former minister with proceeds of crime.
The judge had, on 5th July, 2019, while granting an ex-parte motion filed by the EFCC, ordered the interim forfeiture of the items to the Federal Government.
Dissatisfied, Diezani, in a motion filed through her lawyer, Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), challenged the court’s jurisdiction to make the interim order, saying she was neither charged for any offence nor served with any summons by the EFCC.
She accused the EFCC of entering her apartment illegally and taking the items without any court order, saying her “right to own property and to appropriate them at her discretion,” under Sections 43 and 44 of the Constitution has been violated.
However, at yesterday’s proceedings, the EFCC’s lawyer urged the court to make a permanent order forfeiting the items to government.
This was after he had also proffered arguments as to the need for the dismissal of Diezani’s motion challenging court’s jurisdiction to make the interim forfeiture order for being an abuse of court’s process.
According to Oyedepo, Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, No 14 of 2006, empowered the court to make the interim forfeiture order and as such, the court’s jurisdiction is unquestionable.
“The applicant’s motion is an ‘Action in Rem’ which is targeted at the respondent’s asset and as the claims of any wrongdoing on our part for neither charging the former minister nor serving her with a summon goes to no issue,” he said.
The lawyer added that since the respondent (Diezani) has failed to come up with explanations as to how she was able to acquire the items, the court should be left with no other option than to permanently forfeit them to government.
Diezani’s lawyer, Nnamdi Awa-Kalu, also canvassed arguments in support of his client’s motion seeking to vacate the interim order of forfeiture. He insisted that the court lacked the powers to make the order.
Ruling on the contentious arguments has been fixed for 10th September, 2019.
According to the schedule attached to EFCC’s ex-parte motion, the jewellery, categorised into 33 sets, includes “419 expensive bangles; 315 expensive rings; 304 expensive earrings; 267 expensive necklaces; 189 expensive wristwatches; 174 expensive necklaces and earrings; 78 expensive bracelets; 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.”