Wednesday, 21 June 2023

Property forfeiture: Court to hear Diezani’s suit against EFCC October 23

The Federal High Court has fixed October 23 for the hearing in a suit filed by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed the date on Wednesday after counsel for the former petroleum boss, Benson Igbanoi, and counsel for the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, M.D. Baraya, regularised their processes in the suit.
The ex-minister, who served as the petroleum minister between 2010 and 2015 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is challenging an order obtained by the EFCC for the final forfeiture of her seized assets.
The immediate-past chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, revealed that $153 million and over 80 properties had been recovered from Alison-Madueke.
She was alleged to have escaped to the United Kingdom and remained there after her exit from public office.
But the ex-minister, in a motion dated and filed on January 6 by her lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, sought an order extending the time within which to seek leave to apply to the court.
The extended time is sought for an order to set aside the EFCC’s public notice issued to conduct a public sale on her property.
In the suit wherein Alison-Madueke is the applicant and the EFCC is the sole respondent, the former minister argued that the various orders were made without jurisdiction and “ought to be set aside.”
She said she was not given a fair hearing in all the proceedings leading to the orders.
“The orders were made without recourse to the constitutional right to fair hearing and right to property accorded the applicant by the constitution.
“The applicant was never served with the processes of court in all the proceedings that led to the order of final forfeiture,” she said, among other grounds given.
“The various court orders issued in favour of the respondent and upon which the respondent issued the public notice were issued in breach of the applicant’s right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as altered, and other similar constitutional provisions,” she said.
“The several applications upon which the courts made the final order of forfeiture against the applicant were obtained upon gross misstatements, misrepresentations, non-disclosure, concealment and suppression of material facts and this honourable court has the power to set aside same ex debito justitiae, as a void order is as good as if it was never made at all.
But the EFCC, in a counter affidavit by a detective with the commission, Rufai Zakj, urged the court to dismiss her application.
He said, contrary to her deposition in the affidavit in support, most of the cases that led to the final forfeiture of the contested property “were action in rem; the same was heard at various times and determined by this honourable court.”
He said the courts differently ordered the commission to do a newspaper publication inviting parties to show cause why the said property should not be forfeited to the Federal Government before final orders were made.
Zaki said investigations had clearly shown that she was involved in some acts of criminality, which led to her charge.
According to him, the disposal of the properties followed due process of law.
Zaki argued that the final forfeiture of the assets that were subject to the present application was ordered by the court in 2017.
He said the order has not been set aside or upturned on appeal.

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