Sunday, 11 June 2017

Lawyer appeals forfeiture order on Ikoyi N13bn

Lawyer appeals forfeiture order on Ikoyi N13bn

A Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, has appealed the court order permanently forfeiting to the Federal Government the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 recovered from Flat 7B, No. 16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The money had been recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from the apartment where it was kept in iron cabinets and “Ghana-must-go” bags.

The anti-graft agency said the money was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity, adding that its decision to search the house was informed by intelligence information.
Following an application by the EFCC, Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos had on June 6, 2017 ordered that the money should be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government as no one came forward to claim it.
The judge made the order after dismissing an application by Ogungbeje asking that the judge should suspend the forfeiture proceedings pending when a three-man panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in relation to the funds would submit its report.
The panel, headed by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was to probe the claim and counter-claim of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and Rivers State Government to the funds.
In his ruling, Justice Hassan held that Ogungbeje had no locus standi to request for stay of proceedings in the forfeiture case, describing the lawyer’s application as totally strange and unknown to law.
The judge, who noted that Ogungbeje was not a party in the suit filed by the EFCC for the forfeiture of the money, described the lawyer as a meddlesome interloper and a busybody.
Displeased with the court’s ruling, however, Ogungbeje, on Friday, headed for the Court of Appeal seeking to reverse the permanent forfeiture order.
In his four-ground notice of appeal, the lawyer contended that the permanent forfeiture order made by Justice Hassan was not consistent with Section 44(k) of the 1999 Constitution, which, according to him, stipulated that “there must be investigation, prosecution and conviction before any final forfeiture order could be made by any court in Nigeria.”
“The respondent (EFCC) failed, in its investigation, to furnish the trial court with the sources of the money, owner of the money and how the money got into the residential apartment.
“The Nigerian criminal jurisprudence, as backed by sections 6(6)(b),35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria do not envisage final forfeiture order in the absence of investigation, prosecution and conviction.
“The Federal Government has set up a panel headed by the Vice-President to investigate and unravel the mystery behind the discovery of large sum of money at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi.
“That full-scale investigation is still ongoing by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“That the investigative panel headed by the Vice-President has not released its report or made it public.
‘That the final forfeiture order made by the learned trial judge is hasty and prejudicial to ongoing investigation by the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Ogungbeje contended.
Justice Hassan has adjourned till June 15, 2017 to hear Ogungbeje’s application seeking to stay the execution of the final forfeiture order pending the decision of the Court of Appeal.

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