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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Court orders final forfeiture of $16K, N127m stolen from NIMASA

Justice Kehinde Ogundare of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, has ordered the permanent forfeiture of $16,500 and another N127 million, which were fraudulently diverted from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The forfeiture is to be made to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

This ruling follows an interim forfeiture order granted on May 23, 2024, in response to a motion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The court’s decision ensures that the stolen funds will be permanently returned to the government, marking a significant victory in the fight against corruption.

The EFCC, through its counsel, Suleiman I. Suleiman, had sought the interim forfeiture of the funds under Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14. 2006; and Section 44 (2)(B) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended).

The Judge, in granting the interim forfeiture order, had also directed the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper for interested parties to show cause why the money should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.

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At the resumed sitting on Monday, Suleiman told the court that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful acts, and that the Commission had recovered $16,500 in cash and N118 million from one Uche Obilor and his companies.

While moving the motion for the final forfeiture, Suleiman said: “Pursuant to your lordship’s order made on May 23, 2024, the publication of the order was made on June 6, 2024 of Punch newspaper.

“The said application is supported by 22-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Oghare Ogbole, an investigator with the EFCC.

“The application is accompanied by two exhibits, the interim order of the court and the Punch publication of June 26, 2024; and it is supported with a written address.

“We respectfully adopt same and pray the court to grant all the reliefs sought”, he said.

In the affidavit, the EFCC submitted that: “The funds sought to be forfeited are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful acts of diversion of funds from the treasury of NIMASA, through Mr. Uche Obilor, his companies and other cronies.

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“That during the course of investigation, the total sum of $16,500 USD cash, was recovered by the Commission, part of the funds diverted from the treasury of NIMASA. And that for using his companies as mentioned above, Mr. Uche Obilor, upon invitation to the Commission during the course of investigation agreed to return the sum of N118 million, admittedly received and retained by his companies from the funds fraudulently converted from the treasury of NIMASA,” a statement by EFCC’s Head, Media & Publicity, Dele Oyewale on Tuesday stated.

At the sitting on Tuesday, no interested party appeared in court to contest the interim order.

Consequently, Justice Ogundare, after listening to the counsel to the EFCC, held that “order granted as prayed.”

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