A federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of $153m money allegedly stolen by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, from the treasury of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The stolen funds were stashed in Sterling Bank, First Bank, and Access Bank. A sum of N23billion was kept with Sterling Bank Plc; N9billion was found in First Bank Plc, and $5m was found in an account with Access Bank Plc.
Justice Muslim Hassan gave the order today, January 6th, 2017, with a 14-day ultimatum to Sterling Bank Plc and any other interested parties to prove the legitimacy of the monies before his court, else the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The order was given in favor of an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds.
The counsel to EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had urged Justice Hassan to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government and to order Sterling Bank and others who are joined as defendants in the application, to appear in court within two weeks to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Mr. Oyedepo said the application was brought in under Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2)(‘) of the 1999 Constitution, thus granting same is in the best interest of justice.
In a nine paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, an EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, claimed that the anti-graft agency discovered through its investigations how sometime in December 2014 Alison-Madueke invited a former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, to her office where they hatched the plan on how a cash sum of $153m would be moved from NNPC account.
According to Awolusi, the former petroleum minister instructed Okonkwo to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank. The EFCC investigator added that Okonkwo accepted and implemented the instructions given by Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
He went further to say that two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. connived with Mrs. Alison-Madueke to move the cash from NNPC, Abuja to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos.
Awolusi said that in a desperate bid by Okonkwo to conceal the source of the money, he (Okonkwo) upon receiving it, instructed the Country Head of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Martin Izuogbe, to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Lanre Adesanya for keeps.
He added that another $40m was taken in cash to the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank, Mr. Dauda Lawal, to keep, that money was then taken to Stanley Lawson, a former group executive director of Finance and accounts at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to purchase the Le Meridien in Port Harcourt.
The investigator said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Adesanya, a sum of $108,310,000 was invested in an off-balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited, adding that a sum $108,310,000 was subsequently changed to N23b and saved in Sterling Bank.
Awolusi said that EFCC had recovered the N23.4bn in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked, EFCC 01. The investigator said the EFCC had also recovered another $5m out of the money kept with the MD of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe.
According to him, the $5m was recovered in a draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked, EFCC 02. Also, he alleged that First Bank’s ED had converted the $40m kept with him to N9billion which has also been recovered by the anti-graft agency and registered it as Exhibit EFCC 03.
Justice Hassan adjourned till January 24, 2017, for the respondents to appear in court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.