The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered the final forfeiture of funds belonging to a former governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, domiciled in Zenith and Polaris Banks.
While $56, 056.75 was lodged in Polaris Bank account, the sums of N12.9 million, N11.2 million, $301, 319.99; N217, 388.04 and $311, 872.15 were kept in different Zenith Bank accounts in the name of Mr Yari and his companies, the News Agency of Nigeria reported Tuesday.
The judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, held that the former governor had not shown good cause why the order sought by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should not be granted.
Unclear Source of Wealth
Mr Yari served as governor of Zamfara between May 2011 and May 2019.
The ICPC had instituted a suit, praying the court for the former governor to show cause why the money under investigation should not be forfeited to the federal government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while Mr Yari was the first respondent in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/916/2019, his two companies; Kayatawa Nigeria Ltd and B. T. Oil and Gas Nigeria Ltd were second and third respondents respectively.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo had, on August 16, 2019, granted the order for interim forfeiture of the assets in an exparte motion brought by the commission’s lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha.
Justice Taiwo also ordered the ICPC to publish same in national dailies for any interested party to show cause while the money should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activity.
It accused Mr Yari of illicitly taking the money from the state’s coffers while he was governor.
According to the commission, the victim of the alleged crime is the Zamfara government and by extension the Federal Government of Nigeria and innocent taxpayers which include judges of courts across Nigeria.
It alleged that the former governor used the two companies to launder money in the state account.
In his arguments, Mr Yari said there was no case of prima facie against him before the interim order of forfeiture was granted.
The former governor said the action negated the principle of fair hearing.
Mr Yari, who claimed he was rich before becoming the governor of the state, urged the court to dismiss the interim order earlier granted against him.
Delivering the judgement, Ms Ojukwu queried how one of Mr Yari’s company’s bank accounts grew from zero to $301,319 at the end of his tenure.
She said Mr Yari could not present convincing evidence that the money under investigation was his.
The judge, who dismissed the allegation that the action was a political witch-hunt, held that the suit was not instituted by a political party but a Federal Government agency charged with the mandate to carry out such duties.
She said that right to fair hearing did not necessarily mean oral hearing.
According to her, fair hearing can be in form of writing, and whether the party has been afforded the opportunity.
The judge, therefore, held that the right to fair hearing of the respondent (Mr Yari) was not breached by the commission.
She queried why N350 million was transferred to Mr Yari by the then permanent secretary on the eve of his leaving office.
Mrs Ojukwu also held that Mr Yari failed to disclose his directorship of the companies and could not state clearly how the inflows in the accounts legitimately emanated.
Justice Ojukwu then ordered that the entire sum be forfeited to the Federal Government.
“There is nothing wrong in having huge sum of monies in one’s account but what the law requires is that such proceeds should emanate from legitimate sources or businesses.
“The respondents who have been given opportunity to tell their story have failed to provide evidence for such legitimate income.
“The respondents have not countered the case and facts presented by the applicant.
“The respondents having failed to establish the legitimate source of the monies as stated in this case, this honorable court hereby makes an order of final forfeiture of the following :
“An order of final forfeiture of the sum of 12, 912, 848.68 naira being proceeds of some unlawful activity stashed in Zenith Bank Plc in the name of Abdulazeez Abubakar Yari.
“An order of final forfeiture of the sum of 57, 056.75 dollars, being proceeds of some unlawful activity stashed in Polaris Bank in the name of Abdulazeez Abubakar Yari.
“An order of forfeiture of the sum of N11, 159, 674 .17, being proceeds stashed in Zenith Bank Plc in the name of Kayatawa Nigeria Limited.
“An order of final forfeiture of the sum of 319, 000.91 dollars, being proceed of some unlawful activity stashed in Zenith Bank Plc in the name of Kayatawa Nigeria Limited.
“An order of final forfeiture of the sum of N217, 000.04 being proceeds of some unlawful activity allegedly stashed in Zenith Bank Plc in the name of B.T Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited.
“An order of final forfeiture of the sum of 311, 817.15 dollars, being proceeds of some unlawful activity stashed in Zenith Bank Plc in the name of BT. Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited,” the judge ruled. (NAN)
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