The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted an order of interim forfeiture of 14 properties and firms in Lagos, Abuja, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) allegedly linked to fraud by some Kogi State government officials.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo granted the order sequel to an ex parte motion filed and argued by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN.
Justice Oweibo also authorised the EFCC to confiscate N400 million recovered from one Aminu Falala in connection with the alleged fraud.
Oyedepo told the judge that the application followed the EFCC’s probe of “damning intelligence of monumental fraud allegedly perpetrated by some principal officers of Kogi State Government and their cronies.”
The senior lawyer alleged that through the fraud “huge sums of money belonging to the Kogi State Government were fraudulently converted and used to either outrightly acquire properties or renovate already existing but dilapidated buildings” within and outside Nigeria.
He informed the judge in suit FHC/L/CS/301/2023 that the properties, including the one in the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE, were reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity.
According to him, one of the properties at No. 9 Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja was re-developed and furnished with N310,443,450.00.
Oyedepo further told the court that the N400m was reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity “and intended to be used for the acquisition of Plot No. 1224 Bishop Oluwole Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.”
The judge directed the (EFCC) to publish the order in a national newspaper within 14 days for any interested party to show cause why the forfeiture order should not be made permanent.
He adjourned till March 28 for a report on compliance with the order.
The EFCC’s motion ex-parte dated February 17, 2023, sought a “preservation order of properties reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity pursuant to sections 9 and 10 of the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022 and Section 44(2)B of the 1999 Constitution.
The 14 properties affected by the order include Plot No. 1160, within Cadastral Zone CO3, Gwarimpa II District, Abuja; No. 2, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Street, Asokoro Abuja; Block ‘D’, Manzini Street, Wuse Zone 4 Abuja; Plot A 02/176 Block 488B, Lome Street, Wuse 1, Abuja; Fair Plus International Limited at No. 2 Kubwa Resettlement Area Cadastral Zone E1, Abuja; Fair Plus International Limited, at No 41 Ikorodu Road, Jibowu, Mushin, Lagos State; Fair Plus International Limited at No. 2 Bisi Odunsanya Street, Agege Motor Road, Agege Lagos State; Plot No. 1773 Guzape District, Abuja; and No B13 Citiscape-Shariff Plaza, lying, being and situate at plot 739 Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse 2 Abuja.
The UAE property is Hotel Apartment Community: Burj Khalifa, Plot 160 Municipality NO 345-7562, Sky View Building No 1, Property No 401, Floor 4, Dubai U.A.E.
Others include Plot No. 2934A, Cadastral Zone A06, also known as, No. 1 Ikogosi Spring Close, Maitama District, Abuja; Plot No. 1058, measuring about 1450.77sqm in Cadastral Zone AO8, Wuse 2, also known as No. 2 Durban Street, Abuja; Plot No. 1981, Maitama District, also known as No. 6 Dala Hills, Abuja and the sum of N400million allegedly recovered from Falala.
Oyedepo backed the motion ex-parte application with an affidavit deposed to by an EFCC officer, Adekunbi Mojibola, who was part of the team that investigated the case.
Mojibola claimed that the Kogi State government opened account number 1010662710 with Zenith Bank Plc named Kogi State Government House Admin.
She averred in her affidavit that the owner of the account between February 2016 and 3rd September 2021, procured one Abdulsalam Hudu to make cash withdrawals of N46,039,579,919.38 (billion) from the account.
The deponent claimed that one “Comfort Olufunke was equally procured to make a cash withdrawal of N2,402,533,621.00 (billion) from the same account between 23rd March 2016 and 30th April 2018.
She claimed that Hudu, between 6th August and 29th September 2019 “whilst fraudulently working in concert with his syndicate withdrew in cash the total sum of N612,650,000 (million) from an account known as Kogi State House Administration (operation) with account number 0793190623 domicile in Access Bank.
She averred that between February 2016 and 22nd October 2021, “Hudu in a desperate bid to conceal the proceeds of the several unlawful activities whilst working in concert with other principal officers of the state, made a cash withdrawal of N34,206,890,170.50 (billion) from the account known as Government House Admin Lokoja with account number 1003889575 domiciled in United Bank for Africa (UBA PLC).
“That in a desperate bid to integrate the funds into the economy as legitimate, one Murtala Maigari and his associates were procured to keep in their custody huge sums of money in cash out of the funds withdrawn by Abdulsalam Hudu and his cronies from the treasury of Kogi State Government.”
It was averred that one Dauda Sulaiman was also procured “as a principal member of the syndicate specialized in conveying Kogi State Government funds to the care and custody of Murtala Maigari and associates.
“We invited Dauda Sulaiman and he volunteered his extra-judicial statement.
“The funds fraudulently kept in the custody of Murtala Maigari and his associates (including but not limited to one Rabiu Tafada) were used either for the outright acquisition or development, reconstruction, beautification and provision of exotic furniture for the properties in the name of persons other than Kogi State Government whose funds were used for the acquisition/ development of the properties.
“We have been able to recover just about two registers that contain various cash lodgments and transactions conducted through the said Murtala Maigari. Attached and marked exhibits EFCC 5 are copies of the said registers.
“A peep into the registers has revealed that about N7,900,000,000 (Billion) from the cash withdrawals made by Abdulsalam Hudu and his cronies from the account of Kogi State Government were concealed in the care and custody of Murtala Maigari and his associates.
“We invited Rabiu Tafada, Nura Musa, Mubarak Yusuf and Aliyu Abubakar who honoured our invitation and volunteered their extrajudicial statements. Attached herein and marked exhibits EFCC 6A, EFCC 6B, EFCC 6C and EFCC 6D are the statements of Rabiu Tafada, Nura Musa, Mubarak Yusuf and Aliyu Abubakar.