Court orders final forfeiture of Diezani’s 58 houses bought for $22m
The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the final forfeiture 58 houses belonging to former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Abdulazeez Anka made the order based on an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The motion on notice was moved by its counsel; Mr A.B.C. Ozioko.
Justice Anka held that the property should be forfeited since no one came forward to claim or justify ownership after the interim forfeiture order was advertised.
The respondents are: Mrs Alison-Madueke, Donald Chidi Amamgbo and three firms, Chapel Properties Limited, Blue Nile Estate Limited, Azinga Meadows Limited and Vistapoint Property Development Limited.
None of the respondents, including Mrs Alison-Madueke, was present or represented in court yesterday.
Ozioko said the respondents were served with the forfeiture application through the firms of I.M Umezulike and Babajide Koku (SAN).
“They were duly served. Even while I was here (in court), I spoke with the lawyers. They were not willing to come and join issues,” he said.
He said only the second respondent (Amamgbo), a lawyer, filed an affidavit in which he simply explained his role in the transactions.
“The second respondent only said he acted in good faith and that he did not file the affidavit to challenge the (forfeiture) application in any form,” Ozioko said.
The EFCC lawyer informed Justice Anka that the commission complied with his directive to publish the interim forfeiture order in The Nation newspaper on August 28.
He said an affidavit of compliance was filed to that effect.
The EFCC’s lawyer said the respondents were also served with the motion on notice, adding that a proof of service was also before the court.
“Having done all this, we have not received any counter-affidavit from them challenging the motion on notice. The affidavit filed by second respondent is not in any way challenging the application. We urge the court to grant our application,” Ozioko said.
Ruling, Justice Anka held since the forfeiture application was not challenged, he had no option than to grant it.
He said: “There is no response to the motion on notice of the applicant herein as the records show.
“The only document in the court file is the motion filed by the firm of Babajide Koku’s Chambers since 7th September 2017 seeking an order of court for the applicant to serve them an earlier motion already heard and granted since August 2017.
“The motion also seeks extension of time to hear the final forfeiture proceedings and for the respondents to come and show cause. Their ground is that the applicant failed to serve them the ex-parte motion.
“With all due respect to counsel, ex-parte motions are not meant to be served by their nature except otherwise ordered by the court.
“Meanwhile, the respondents are not before the court to proceed with their motion of 7th September 2017 and for the court to grant them fair hearing despite the order of court to serve the parties with a hearing notice.
“The motion seems to have been abandoned by the respondents. In the circumstance, the motion is accordingly struck out.”
Granting the forfeiture application, Justice Anka added: “I have also read the affidavit of the second respondent, Donald Chidi Amamgbo, explaining the role he played in the entire transaction, and that he cannot stand in the way of the court making any order it deems fit to make in relation of the properties.
“It is, therefore, obvious that the second respondent is aware of the pending action.
“I have heard the submissions of the applicant’s counsel Mr ABC Ozioko. It is obvious there is no defence to the action.
“The court, therefore, has no option, considering the uncontroverted evidence as filed by the EFCC, than to grant their application. It is accordingly granted as prayed. All parties have a right of appeal.”
EFCC said the property include 29 terraced houses comprising eight four-bedroom penthouse apartments, six three-bedroom apartments, two three-bedroom maisonettes, two twin bedroom apartments and one four-bedroom apartment.
The houses, located at No. 7, Thurnbull Street and 5, Raymond Street, Yaba, were allegedly bought by Diezani for N937,000,000 through Chapel Properties.
Others are 16 four-bedroom terraced houses in Heritage Court Estate, Plot 2C, Omerelu Street, Diobu, Government Residential Area (GRA) Phase 1 extension, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, purchased for N928,000,000 through Blue Nile Estate.
She allegedly purchased 13 three-bedroom terraced houses with one-room maid’s quarters ensuite for N650,000,000 through Azinga Meadows.
The commission also said that Mrs Alison-Madueke paid N805,000,000 through Vistapoint Property Development for six flats of three bedrooms and one boys’ quarters each, a lawn tennis court, gym and ‘matured garden’.
According to an affidavit in support of the application by an EFCC investigative officer, Mr Sombori Mayana, the commission got wind of the the properties in 2016 following its execution of a search warrant on Amamgbo’s office and premises.
Mayana said among documents recovered from Amamgbo’s office was a ‘confidential report’ which listed 18 companies and several properties located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and The United States of America.
“During the course of his interview, Mr Amamgbo told us that he registered the 18 companies to assist Mrs Alison-Madueke in holding titles of the properties,” Mayana said.
Mayana averred that a Principal Manager and Head, Business Development of FBN Mortgages Ltd, Mrs Bolanle Onotu, confirmed that the properties were sold by her organisation to Mrs Alison-Madueke’s alleged four proxy firms for N937million, N928million and N650million.
He said First Bank Plc confirmed that the money was from Mrs Alison-Madueke and that dollars were collected from her house at 10, Frederick Chiluba Close off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja.
He said a total of $16,041,906 was picked up by the bank at Diezani’s house between September 29, 2011 and April 4, 2013 and converted to Naira.
According to Mayana, another firm, Adebern Parks Nigeria Ltd, received N802,500,000 in its Zenith Bank account from an Ecobank account for the purchase of some of the properties.
One Mr Adeyemi Edun “received the sum of N840,000,000 from Skye Bank Plc which on his instruction transferred the sum of N805,000,000 to his Eco Bank account from where he paid Adebern Parks for the property.”