Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, on Friday deferred judgment in an application filled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the final forfeiture of N1.2 billion (N1,222,384,857.84) recovered from the account of Melrose General Services Company Limited as well as another N220 million recovered from two other companies.
Justice Olatoregun had, on October 13, 2017, ordered an interim forfeiture of the money, following a motion ex parte filed by the EFCC.
The judge had also ordered the temporary forfeiture of the N220 million recovered from two other companies namely Wasp Networks Limited and Thebe Wellness Services.
In granting the EFCC prayers, Justice Olatoregun had ordered anyone interested in the money to appear before the court within 14 days to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge had also directed the commission to publish in any newspaper for anyone who is interested in the money to appear before the court to show cause why the order for the final forfeiture should not be granted.
At Friday’s sitting, Olawale Akoni, counsel to Melrose Services Limited, moved a motion seeking to set aside an earlier order given by the court for the interim forfeiture of N1.2 billion to the federal government.
Mr. Akoni informed the court that the money belongs to Melrose Services Limited and was paid into its account on December 14, 2016.
He further stated that it was the payment for the reconciliation of accounts of the Nigeria Governor Forum (NGF) it did for Biz Plus.
However, counsel to the prosecution, Ekele Iheanacho, argued that it was conspiracy with others to obtain the money from the NGF.
He also stated that a letter was sent from the EFCC and a response was received from the NGF that the job was carried out by a consortium of consultants known as GSCL Biz Plus.
Mr. Iheanacho said the report was submitted to the NGF on August 31, 2016, and forwarded as the final reconciliation of the over-deduction on foreign loan account of the states to the Ministry of Finance.
He said the NGF consequently wrote to the Ministry of Finance to pay them the agreed 5 per cent consultancy fees that all states’ governors had signed.
The prosecution counsel added that upon approval by the presidency, the Ministry of Finance wrote to the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay the sum of $86,546,526.65 and N 18,635,427,311.54 to the NGF.
He added: “In the cause of investigation, the EFCC recovered a bundle of document in possession of Melrose Services Limited, where it had earlier claimed it did the job.
“The said document was a re-copy of the work of Biz Plus. It was lifted out paragraph by paragraph from the work of Biz plus. But Melrose signed it as its own job.
“This document was never presented to the court.
“However, it was after the Interim order was made that Melrose presented another document to the court instead of the one recovered.”
Mr. Iheanacho also told the court that after the order for the interim forfeiture was granted and published, one Godwin Udemaduka, through his lawyer, laid claim of interest to the money.
“Udemaduka claimed to have done a consultancy job for Zamfara State Government and has not been paid.
“He is not entitled to the money, but he has aligned with others to steal the money.
“His claim is to Zamfara State Government and the claim before the court is not for debt recovery. The money in question doesn’t belong to only Zamfara State Government.
“He is, therefore, not entitled to any claim,” he further argued.
Consequently, the judge deferred ruling on the final forfeiture order.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...