A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Wednesday, affirmed the final forfeiture of properties worth N1.8billion recovered from a former Executive Director, Projects, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Tuoyo Omatsuli, to the federal government.
The spokesperson for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Wilson Uwujaren, who disclosed this in a statement, said the court also dismissed an application filed by Francis Momoh, who was laying claim to the properties.
A judge of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, Chuka Obiozor, had, on December 10, 2018, ordered the final forfeiture of the properties including Block 117, Plot 4, Lekki Peninsula Scheme, TPAO 992, Ikate Ancient City, Eti-Osa L.G.A, Lagos, measuring 1804.089Sqm.
The forfeited properties also included Plots 1-18, Block 43, TPAO 992, Ikate Ancient City, Lekki Peninsula, Eti-Osa, Lagos, measuring 10,000Sqm. Others are: Plot 1b, Northern Business District, Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1, measuring 1000Sqm and Plot 1; Block 25, Lekki Peninsula Residential Scheme 1, Eti-Osa L.G.A, measuring 2989.10Sqm.
Dissatisfied with the order, Mr Momoh had approached the appellate court seeking to set aside the order of court.
But a judgment read by Daniel Kalio, a member of the Court of Appeal panel, held that Mr Momoh did not place any material before the court “to enable it to disturb the findings of the lower court”.
The appellate court also held that Mr Momoh’s appeal lacked merit and was accordingly dismissed.
“The judgment of the lower court is affirmed,” it further held.
Counsel for the EFCC, Ekene Iheanacho, had while moving ex parte application for the interim forfeiture of the properties at the Federal High Court, referred to paragraph four of the affidavit, detailing how a contractor with the NDDC, Starline Consultancy Services Limited, was paid about N10.2 billion as consultancy fee for levies collected from oil producing companies in the Niger Delta Region.
It was further stated that out of the money paid to Starline, about N3.6 billion was paid as kickback to Omatsuli through a company named Building Associates Limited.“Some of the funds were used by Building Associates to buy properties in the name of a company, Don Parker Properties Limited, where Omatsuli had majority shareholding,” Mr Iheanacho had further told the court.
Mr Iheanacho had also told the court that Mr Momoh, whom he described as the majority shareholder in Building Associates Limited, was introduced as a shareholder in Don Parker Properties Limited so as to disguise the nature of the crime.
After hearing the submissions, the Federal High Court judge, Mr Obiozor, had granted all the prayers sought by the applicant and ordered the interim forfeiture of the properties to the Federal Government.
The judge had further directed the commission to publish the irder in any national newspaper within 14 days, notifying the respondents or anyone interested in the properties to appear before the court and show cause why the properties should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
EFCC, in compliance with the court’s order, had published the interim forfeiture order in The Nation Newspaper of May 26, 2018.
However, the respondents, on October 1, 2018, opposed the application, claiming ownership of the properties.
Delivering his judgment, Mr Obiozor had held that the properties were acquired through proceeds from kickbacks received by Building Associate Limited operated by Mr Momoh on behalf of Mr Tuoyo, and ruled that the properties be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.
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