Union Bank of Nigeria Plc on Thursday asked Justice Saliu Saidu of a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court to vacate an interim order of forfeiture placed on Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos where the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 (about N13 billion) were discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on April 12, in iron cabinets and “Ghana-must-go” bags.
The judge had on November 9, made the order while granting an ex-parte application filed by the anti-graft agency.
A firm, Chobe Ventures Limited, was joined as the respondent in the suit.
Granting the ex-parte order, Mr. Saidu directed the EFCC to notify the respondent in whose possession the property was found to appear before him in a fortnight to show reason why it should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The anti-graft agency was also directed to publicise the interim order in a national daily for the respondent or anyone interested in the property to show cause within two weeks why a final forfeiture order should not be made on the property.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, Union Bank through its lawyer, A. A. Aribisala, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, drew the court’s attention to an application seeking to vacate the interim order of forfeiture.
In an affidavit in support of the application deposed to by one, Alfred Olukayode Edun, the bank argued that the forfeited flat was part of the property situated at 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, belonging to Adamu Muazu, by virtue of a certificate of occupancy dated 27th September 2009 and registered as 97/97/2009 in the Lands Registry Office, Alausa, Lagos.
The bank said Mr. Muazu, a former Bauchi State governor and former Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, had mortgaged the entire property to it by virtue of a Tripartite Deed of Legal Mortgage dated November 1, 2011, in order to secure a loan granted to his company, Tripple A Properties & Investment Ltd.
The bank further claimed that the original title deed of the property had been vested in it while the loan is yet to be liquidated till date despite the fact that its tenor has expired.
The bank further claimed it sold the property to Chobe Ventures Ltd to liquidate the loan.
However, in its counter affidavit to the application, the EFCC argued that the bank lacks the ‘locus standi’ to challenge the forfeiture of property “reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities of Ambassador Ayo Oke and Mrs. Folashade Oke.”