Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday odered the temporary forfeiture of a landed property belonging to Mrs Deziani Alison-Madueke, former Minister of Petroleum Resources, valued at N325,400,000, to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Other defendants in the suit are Mr Donald Chidi Amangbo and Mez Group Limited.
Justice Babs Kuewumi, the presiding judge, granted the order of temporary forfeiture of the property, sequel to a motion file and argued by EFCC’s counsel, Anselem Ozioko, on a vacant plot of land said to be at Plot 13, Block 11, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos, after listening to the Motion Ex-parte filed and argued by counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), A.B.C. Ozioko.
In the motion ex-parte, marked suit number FHC/L/CS/811/18, the commission sought an interim order of the court forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the assets and properties named and described in the schedule to the application, which properties and assets are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.
In the affidavit, the EFCC also sought an order authorising the commission to appoint a competent person (s) or firm to manage the assets named and described in the scheduled to the application.
Ozioko is also seeking an order of the court directing the applicant to notify the person (s) in whose possession the properties sought to be forfeited to appear before the court and show cause within 14 days why the properties should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, or in the alternative, an order directing the publication in any national newspaper of the interim order under relief 1 above for persons in whose possession the properties sought to be forfeited are found or anyone who is interested in the properties sought to be forfeited to appear before the court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture of the properties should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
In the 27 paragraphs affidavit deposed to by one Abdulrasheed Bawa an detective of the EFCC and filed before the court, it was averred that sometime in 2016 a search warrant was executed at the office and premises of one Mr Donald Chidi Amamgbo (SAN), a known acquantance of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Alison Madueke.
The commission said that during the search, some of the documents recovered from Amamgbo’s office included an undated report titled ‘Highly Confidential Attorney Work Product – August Report”.
EFCC said the report contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in United Kingdom, Nigeria and United States of America.
It was also averred that in the course of his interview, Amamgbo told the anti-graft agency that he registered the 18 companies to assist Mrs Deziani Alison Madueke in holding titles of her properties and that all belongs to her.
The anti-graft agency added that among the properties on the list is: a vacant plot of land at Plot 13 Block 11, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos under the name of Mez Group LCC as the holiding entity.
The EFCC said it consequently wrote a letter dated May 11, 2016 to the Oniru Chieftaincy Family Property Company for copies of the sales agreement/Deed of lease and evidence of payment for the property while the Oniru responded by submitting the following; a sub-lease agreement between Oniru and Skye Bank.
A letter dated 5th September, 2011and Paul Osaji to Oniru requesting for the release of sublease agreement between Oniru and Mez Group LCC .
Also recovered from Amamgbo’s office is a letter dated September 5, 2011 from Oniru to Mez Group LCC titled collection of Deed of sub-lease of the property.
The commission said enquiries from Skye Bank Plc indicate that the bank bought the property from Oniru sometimes in 2006, but sold it to Exclamation Nigeria Limited in 2008 and that in 2012 the property was purchased by Mez Group LCC through Paul Osaji & Co , Estate Surveyors and Valuers.
The affidavit further stated that Paul Osaji in his response to EFCC’s letter said among others issue that in 2010 , the land was sold to Mez Group LCC for the sum of N325,400,000.
Osaji was also said to have submitted letter which includes sub-lease agreement between Oniru and Mez Group, copies of 19 First Bank of Nigeria Manager Cheques all dated 24th December, 2010 with a total value N185,400,000 in favour of Exclamation Nigeria Limited, five Zenith Bank Plc Manager Cheques all dated 9th November, 2010with total value of N50,000,000 , in favour of Exclamation Nigeria Limited.
Also recovered was five copies of UBA PlC Manager Cheques all dated 8th of November, 2010 with total value of N90,000,000.
The applicant said among other investigation carried out, the Land Bureau in Alausa , Lagos was written and the bureau confirmed that the land belongs to Mez Group.
Consequently, EFCC asked that the property be forfeited to the Federal Government in the interim.
After listening to argument by counsel to EFCC, Justice Babs Kuewumi granted the application for interim forfeiture of the property to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Justice Kweuwumi further ruled that the order must be published in a national newspaper for anybody who have interest in the property sought to be forfeited to come forward and show cause why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, July 24 has been fixed for the return date.