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Ex-NIMASA Boss To Recover Property As Court Lifts Forfeiture Order

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Ex-NIMASA Boss To Recover Property As Court Lifts Forfeiture Order

 

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The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday discharged an order made by Justice Tijani Garba Ringim, which forfeited property and the sum of ₦725,345, 897.77 million, linked to a former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Apobolokemi.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke discharged the interim order while ruling on the processes filed by parties in the suit.

The court also dismissed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) motion on notice for a final forfeiture order of the assets.

This ruling paved the way for the former NIMASA DG to recover the assets.

On April 3, 2023, another judge of the same court, Justice Tijani Ringim, ordered the interim forfeiture of a property situated at Plot No. J37A Close, 2nd Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, and the money, while granting a motion ex parte filed by the EFCC.

The property is said to belong to a real estate firm, Boloboloere Properties & Estates Limited, while the money, N725, 345, 897.77 million, is said to belong to another company, Onyeinteke Global Network.

In granting the orders for interim forfeiture of the property and the money at the time, Justice Ringim ruled: “That an order of this honourable court is hereby granted to the applicant forfeiting in the Interim to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the property lying, being and situate at Plot No J37A Close, 2nd Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, which property is reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.

“That an order of this honourable court is hereby granted to the applicant forfeiting in the interim to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the total sum of N725,345,897.77 (seven hundred and twenty-five million, three hundred and forty-five thousand, eight hundred and ninety-nine naira, and seventy-seven Kobo), which sum is reasonably suspected to be the proceeds of unlawful activity and warehoused in the account of Onyeinteke Global Network domiciled in the UBA PLC and bearing Account No: 1018325345.

“That the applicant is hereby directed to publish in any National Newspaper, the Interim Order granted under reliefs 1 and 2 above, for anyone who is interested in the properties sought to be forfeited to appear before this Honourable Court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture of the said properties should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

However, the two firms, Boloboloere Properties & Estates Limited and Onyeinteke Global Network Limited, through their lawyer, Abdulakeem Labi-Lawal, challenged the orders of interim forfeiture through a Motion on Notice dated April 11, 2023, wherein he asked the Court to set aside and/or discharge the order.

Labi-Lawal predicated his arguments on the fact that, the EFCC concealed before the court, the fact that, Boloboloere had been discharged on all counts bordering on allegations of money laundering brought against it in Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015: Federal Republic of Nigeria vs. Dr. Parick Ziadeke Apobolokemi and 10 Others.

He also argued further that the EFCC had failed to show or demonstrate how Boloboloere’s property was purchased from the proceeds of unlawful activities
Labi-Lawal, in his motion to set aside the interim orders, asked the court for the following orders:

“An order setting aside and/or discharging the Interim Orders of this Honourable Court made on the 3rd of April, 2023, forfeiting in the interim to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the property lying and situated at Piot J, 37B Close, 2nd Avenue, Banana Island, lkoyi, Lagos.

“an order of this Honourable Court restraining the respondent (EFCC) whether acting by itself or through its agents, from advertising the order of interim forfeiture made by this honourable court in this suit on the 3rd of April, 2023, pending the hearing and determination of this Motion on Notice filed in this proceeding.”

In documents put before the court as proof, the lawyer stated that “the applicant is the registered owner of the property situated and lying at Plot J, 37B Close, 2nd Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos (“the property”).

“The Respondent, by its Motion Ex-Parte dated 23rd of February, 2023, obtained from this Honourable Court, an Interim Forfeiture over the property to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“The Applicant’s property is the one lying and situated at Plot J, 37B Close, 2nd Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos State and not the one situate and lying at and not Plot J, 37A Close, 2 Avenue, Banana island, Ikoyi, Lagos, as erroneously stated by the Respondent.

“Sometime in 2015, the Federal Government of Nigeria, had through the Respondent, commenced Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015: Federal Republic of Nigeria vs. Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi & 10 Ors., wherein the Applicant was named as the 8th Defendant, before this Honourable Court.
And that in the said Charge, the respondent made the same allegations made in its Motion Ex-parte dated 23rd of February, 2023 against the applicant, to wit: that the property was acquired by the applicant from proceeds of crime.

“The totality of the facts deposed to and documents attached by the respondent to its motion Exparte for interim forfeiture are the same set of facts and documents the Respondent relied on in proof of the Counts of offences contained in Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015.

“Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015 proceeded to trial wherein the respondent tendered in evidence the same evidence attached to its affidavit in support of its Motion Ex Parte for Interim forfeiture as Exhibits EFCC 01 — 06, in proof of its allegations against the Applicant.

“After four years of trial in Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015, this Honourable Court, in a considered ruling on the No Case Submission filed by the applicant, found that the respondent (EFCC) has failed to prove any of the allegations of fraud against the applicant and consequently discharged it of alt criminal liabilities in relation to the offences contained in the said Charge, which are also the same allegations made against the Applicant in the Respondent’s Motion Ex Parte in this proceedings.

“Notwithstanding the respondent’s full knowledge of the discharge of the applicant from all criminal liabilities in Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015, the respondent (EFCC) deliberately and with the intention of misleading this Honourable Court, failed and refused to disclose the existence of the decision in Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015 to this Honourable Court.

“The decision in Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015 is a final decision and is binding on the Respondent. And that no new fact(s) has occurred since the discharge of the Applicant in Charge No: FHC/L/31C/2015 to warrant the respondent’s application for interim forfeiture and/or the grant of same, on the Applicant’s property.

“The Interim Forfeiture Order obtained by the Respondent in this proceeding were obtained on misrepresentation, suppression and concealment of material facts and ought to be discharged forthwith.

“The advertisement of the Order of Interim Forfeiture by the Respondent or its agents will render any order this Honourable Court might make in respect of this Motion on Notice nugatory and foist a fait accompli on this Honourable Court.

Justice Aneke, while ruling on the processes filed by the parties, agreed with the arguments canvassed by Boloboloere’s lawyer, and subsequently granted the motion seeking to set aside the Orders of Interim Forfeiture.

 

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