A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed Oct. 23 for hearing the suit filed by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, challenging the order obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for final forfeiture of her seized assets.
Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed the date on Wednesday after Alison-Madueke’s lawyer, Benson Igbanoi, and the EFCC’s counsel, M.D. Baraya regularised their processes in the suit.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the anti-corruption agency had planned to conduct a public sale of all the assets seized, regarded as proceeds of crime and ordered by courts to be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government
The auctioning exercise, conducted on the seized assets believed to include Diezani’s property, started on Jan. 9.
The immediate-past chairman of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, recently revealed that $153 million and over 80 properties had been recovered from Alison-Madueke.
She was alleged to have escaped to the United Kingdom and remained there after her exit from public office as the petroleum minister, an office she held between 2010 and 2015 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
But the ex-minister, in her suit, sought an order extending the time within which to seek leave to apply to the court for an order to set aside the EFCC’s public notice issued to conduct a public sale on her property.
In the motion, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/21/2023, dated and filed on Jan. 6 by her lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, the former minister sought five orders from the court.
While Alison-Madueke is the applicant, the EFCC is the sole respondent in the suit.
The former minister, who argued that the various orders were made without jurisdiction, said these “ought to be set aside ex debito justitiae.”
She said she was not given a fair hearing in all the proceedings leading to the orders.
“The various court orders issued in favour of the respondent and upon which the respondent issued the public notice were issued in breach of the applicant’s right to a fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as altered, and other similar constitutional provisions,” she said.
She argued that she was neither served with the charge sheet and proof of evidence in any of the charges nor any other summons howsoever and whatsoever in respect of the criminal charges pending against her before the court.
She further argued that the courts were misled into making several of the final forfeiture orders against her assets through suppression or non-disclosure of material facts.
But the EFCC, in a counter-affidavit deposed to by Rufai Zaki, a detective with the commission, urged the court to dismiss her application.
Zaki, who was a member of the team that investigated the case of criminal conspiracy, official corruption, and money laundering against the ex-minister and some other persons involved in the case, said the investigation had clearly shown that she was involved in some acts of criminality.
“We hereby rely on the charge FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018 dated 14th November 2018 filed before this honourable court and also attached as Exhibit C in the applicant’s affidavit,” he said.
The EFCC operative, who said he had seen the ex-minister’s motion, said most of the depositions were untrue.
He said, contrary to her deposition in the affidavit in support, most of the cases that led to the final forfeiture of the contested property “were action in rem and were heard at various times and determined by this honourable court.”
According to him, the courts differently ordered the commission to do a newspaper publication inviting parties to show cause why the said property should not be forfeited to the Federal Government before final orders were made.
Zaki argued that one Nnamdi Awa Kalu represented the ex-minister in reaction to one of the forfeiture applications.
“We humbly rely on the judgement of Hon. Justice I.L.N. Oweibo dated 10th September 2019, shown in Exhibit C of the applicant’s affidavit,” he said.
The officer said, contrary to her, that the final forfeiture of the assets that were the subject of the present application was ordered by the court in 2017 and that this was not set aside or upturned on appeal.
According to him, the properties have been disposed of through due process of law.