Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court Lagos on Tuesday ordered final forfeiture to the Federal Government of $43.4m, £27,800, N23.2m, discovered in a luxury flat in Osborne, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The judge gave the order after no one showed up to claim the money uncovered on April 11, 2017 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, within the ultimatum he had given when he granted a temporary forfeiture on April 13, 2017.
Justice Hassan had given 14 days for anyone interested in the money to appear before him to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Up till May 5, when the matter came up, no one came forward to claim the money, which lend credence to EFCC’s allegation that the funds are products of unlawful activities.
But it should be noted that an overzealous legal practitioner, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, had appeared before the judge, with an application, asking him to suspend the final forfeiture proceedings pending the outcome of the investigation by a three-man panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to look into the discovered funds.
The EFCC opposed Ogungbeje’s application and had requested the court to discountenance it and go ahead with the forfeiture proceedings.
In his judgement on Tuesday, Justice Hassan upheld the EFCC’s submission and dismissed Ogungbeje’s application for lacking in merit. He described the application as totally strange, noting that having not appealed against the interim forfeiture order, Ogungbeje had no right to seek a stay of proceedings in the case.
Justice Hassan also had some harsh words for Ogungbeje, who was not a party in the suit filed by the EFCC. He lambasted the lawyer as a meddlesome interloper and a busybody, whose application was strange to law.
After dismissing Ogungbeje’s application, the judge then issued an order permanently forfeiting the funds to the Federal Government.
Justice Hassan said, “I am in complete agreement with the submission of the learned counsel for the applicant (EFCC) that the property sought to be attached are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities and that by every standard this huge sum of money is not expected to be kept without going through a designated financial institution; more so, nobody has shown cause why the said sum should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Having regard to the foregoing, I have no other option but to grant this application as prayed.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, I hereby make the following orders: 1. A final order is made forfeiting the sums of $43,449,947 found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at Flat 7B of No. 16 Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Justice Hassan issued the same order with regard to the £27,800 and N23,218,000.