A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has urged the Federal High Court in Abuja to vacate an order obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for final forfeiture of her seized assets.
Diezani, in her suit, sought an order extending the time within which to seek leave to apply to the court for an order to set aside the EFCC’s public notice issued to conduct public sale on her property.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the anti-corruption agency had planned to conduct public sale of all assets seized for being proceeds of crime ordered by courts to be permanently forfeited to the federal government
The auctioning exercise conducted on the seized assets believed to include Diezani’s property started on 9 January.
But in the motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/21/2023 dated and filed in court on 6 January by her lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the ex-minister sought five orders from the court.
PREMIUM TIMES reported EFCC chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa, saying in May that $153 million and over 80 properties had been recovered from Diezani.
Diezani is believed to have escaped to the United Kingdom and remained there after her exit from public office as the petroleum minister an office she held between 2010 and 2015 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The former minister has defied court summonses to attend to corruption charges in Nigeria.
But she is now seeking the recovery of her assets that have been seized through non-conviction-based proceedings.
Diezani is the applicant and the EFCC is the sole respondent in the suit she filed before a judge, Inyang Ekwo, of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The former minister, who argued that the various orders were made without jurisdiction, said these “ought to be set aside ex debito justitiae.”
She said she was not given fair hearing in all the proceedings leading to the orders.
“The various court orders issued in favour of the respondent and upon which the respondent issued the public notice to conduct public sale of items contained in the public notice most of which court the interest of the applicant 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.
She argued that she was neither served with the charge sheet and proof of evidence in any of the charge nor any other summons howsoever and whatsoever in respect of the criminal charges pending against her before the court.
She further argued that the courts were misled into making several of the final forfeiture orders against her assets through suppression or non-disclosure of material facts.
“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.
“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.
EFCC counters suit
But the EFCC, in a counter affidavit deposed to by Rufai Zaki, a detective with the commission, urged the court to dismiss Diezani’s application.
Mr Zaki, who was a member of the team that investigated a case of criminal conspiracy, official corruption and money laundering against the ex-minister and some other persons involved in the case, said investigation had clearly shown that she was involved in some acts of criminality.
He said Diezani was therefore charged before the court in charge no: FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018.
“We hereby rely on the charge FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018 dated 14th November, 2018 filed before this honourable court and also attached as Exhibit C in the applicant’s affidavit,” he said.
The EFCC operative, who said he had seen the ex-minister’s motion, said most of the depositions were untrue.
He said contrary to her deposition in the affidavit in support, most of the cases which led to the final forfeiture of the contested property “were action in rem, same were 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.
Mr Zaki argued that one Nnamdi Awa Kalu represented the ex-minister in reaction to one of the forfeiture applications.
“We humbly rely on the judgment of Hon. Justice I.LN. Oweibo dated 10th September, 2019 shown in Exhibit C of the applicant’s affidavit,” he said.
The officer said contrary to her, the final forfeiture of the assets which were subject of the present application was ordered by the court since 2017 and that this was not set aside or upturned on appeal.
According to him, the properties have been disposed off through due process of law.
Upon mentioning the matter on Monday, Diezani’s counsel, Oluchi Uche, told Mr Ekwo that they were just been served by the EFFC on Friday and they would need time to respond to the counter affidavit.
Farouk Abdullah, who appeared by the anti-graft agency, did not oppose and the judge adjourned the matter until 8 May for hearing.
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