A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the interim forfeiture of 56 houses allegedly bought between 2011 and 2013 for $21,982,224 million (N3,320,000,000 billion) by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Abdulaziz Anka, a vacation judge, made the order yesterday following an ex parte application filed on August 16 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Anka authorised the EFCC to appoint a firm to manage the property and gave the respondents 14 days to show cause why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge directed the agency to publish the order in any national newspaper and adjourned till September 8.
The application, brought pursuant to section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud related offences Act 2006 and Section 44(2)(k) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) sought a temporary transfer of the property to the Federal Government.
Listed as first to sixth respondents in the suit are Diezani, Donald Chidi Amamgbo and four firms— Chapel Properties Limited, Blue Nile Estate Limited, Azinga Meadows Limited and Vistapoint Property Development Limited.
EFCC counsel Mr. Anselem Ozioko told Justice Anka that Mrs Alison-Madueke paid $16,441,906 (N2.6billion) cash in several tranches and another $5,540318 (N840,000,000) cash for the properties through four “front” firms which held the titles in trust for her.
The firms are Chapel Properties, Blue Nile Estate, Azinga Meadows and Vistapoint Property Development.
Ozioko said the commission had discovered 14 other firms incorporated for the ex-minister for holding the titles to those property.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke, he added, bought the properties from the proceeds of suspected unlawful activity during her tenure as minister.
The properties include 29 terraced houses comprising eight four-bedroom penthouse apartments, six three-bedroom apartments, two three-bedroom maisonettes, two twin bedroom apartments and one four-bedroom apartment.
The houses, located at No. 7, Thurnbull Street and 5, Raymond Street, Yaba, were allegedly bought by Mrs. Alison-Madueke for the US dollar equivalent of N937,000,000 through Chapel Properties Ltd.
Others are 16 four-bedroom terrace houses in Heritage Court Estate, Plot 2C, Omerelu Street, Diobu, Government Residential Area (GRA) Phase 1 extension, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, bought for N928,000,000 through Blue Nile Estate Ltd.
The former minister allegedly bought 13 three-bedroom terrace houses with one-room maid’s quarters ensuite for N650,000,000 through Azinga Meadows Ltd.
The commission also stated that Mrs. Alison-Madueke paid N805,000,000 through Vistapoint Property Development Ltd for six flats of three bedrooms and one boys’ quarters each, a lawn tennis court, a gym and “matured garden”.
According to an affidavit in support of the application by an EFCC investigative officer, Mr Sombori Mayana, the commission got wind of the properties in 2016 following its execution of a search warrant on the office and premises of the former minister’s acquaintance, Mr Donald Chidi Amamgbo.
Mayana said: “…among the documents recovered from the office of Mr Donald Chidi Amamgbo was an undated report titled ‘HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT – AUGUST REPORT’
“The report contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and the United States of America.
“During the course of his interview, Mr Donald Amamgbo told us that he registered the 18 companies to assist Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke in holding titles of the properties.”
On August 7, Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the permanent forfeiture to the Federal Government of a $37.5million Banana Island property bought in 2013 by the former Petroleum Minister.
The property designated as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate, consists of 24 apartments, 18 flats and six penthouses.
The judge also ordered that $2,740,197.96 and N84,537,840.70 realised as rent on the property be permanently forfeited to the government.
On August 8, Justice Obiozor ordered Sterling Bank Plc to temporarily forfeit to the Federal Government a sum of N7,646,700,000 said to have been illegally kept in the bank’s custody by Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
He adjourned till August 28, for the bank and any other interested party to appear before him to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Also on August 8, it was revealed that the EFCC had traced N47.2 billion and $487.5million to the ex-minister.
The agency also claimed that Mrs. Alison-Madueke has N23,446,300,000 and $5milion (about N1.5billion) cash in various banks which are yet to be forfeited.
The commission is also investigating properties in Britain and the United States allegedly purchased with stolen government funds.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke has consistently denied the allegations.