Wednesday, January 25, 2017 10:36 pm
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, south west Nigeria was today told how an Executive Director of First Bank Plc, Dauda Lawal, laundered funds on behalf of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison Madueke. Counsel representing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, made the revelations while responding to a counter affidavit deposed to by Lawal.
Lawal is seeking to discharge an interim forfeiture order of the sum of N9.08 billion by the court. The presiding Judge, Justice Muslim Hassan had on January 6,2017 issued an interim order of forfeiture of the said sum to the Federal Government, following an application filed before the court by EFCC, seeking similar relief. The EFCC had initiated the exparte application seeking an interim order, for the temporary forfeiture to the Federal Government, of the sum, which it claims is linked to Diezani. The court thereafter, issued 14 days for any interested party to appear and prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
At the resumed hearing of the case today , Mr Charles Adeogun announced appearance for Lawal who is joined as respondent in the suit. On the other hand, Oyedepo announced appearance for the EFCC. He told the court that in line with its interim orders of January 6, 2017 the EFCC had served same on Lawal. He also told the court that the order was also published in the Daily Independence Newspaper of January 12,2017 in compliance with the orders of the court. In response, counsel to Lawal, (Adeogun) confirmed the position, and added that he had filed a counter affidavit deposed to by Lawal, challenging the said forfeiture orders. Arguing his application, he urged the court to issue an order, directing a refund of the sum of N9.08billion to his client, on the grounds that same was obtained by coercion.
He argued further that before such forfeiture orders can be made, two essential elements must be satisfied namely: “that the property in question is unclaimed, and that such property or funds form proceeds of an unlawful act.” He said: “We became aware of the forfeiture order when the interim order was served on us; My client was never confronted with these sets of facts during his incarceration at the EFCC.
“After service of the orders, I requested for the statement of my client to the commission, but same was never given to me,” he said, adding that his client admitted having received the sum of 25 million dollars in clear dispensation of his duties, but was coerced by the commission to further admit receiving a total of 65 million dollars. According to him, the sum of 40 million dollars was therefore, taken as an over draft from his bank to off set the alleged extra sum. He therefore, urged the court to order the immediate refund of the sum to his client.
In his reply, Oyedepo submitted that the tenure of section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offence Act, makes a property which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime, forefeitable to the FG. He queried: “going by the facts and circumstances of this particular case, can it be said that the sum of N9.08 billion which is the naira equivalent of 40 million dollars, was not reasonably suspected to form proceeds of a crime”.
He argued that paragraph 4 of the applicant’s reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of some staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as the respondent to launder funds. “My lord, paragraph 4 of our reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of one Gbenga Komolafe, former group Managing Director , crude oil marketing division NNPC, Prince Haruna Momoh, former group Managing Director Petroleum Product Marketing company, Umar Farouk Ahmed, group Managing Director Nigerian Product marketing company as well as Dauda Lawal, to launder funds on behalf of former petroleum minister, Diezani Allison Madueke.”
According to Oyedepo, “it will amount to contesting the obvious for Lawal to argue that he had no knowledge of the said sums. He argued that it was uncommon for a law enforcement agency like the EFCC to detain a person in its custody in perpetuity, without any order of the court, adding that the statement of Lawal was lawfully obtained. “The respondent was duly cautioned before he voluntarily made his statement at the commission, and his lawyer even appended his signature further attesting to the fact that the statements were obtained voluntarily.
“So having freely volunteered a statement, he cannot urge my lord not to attach full probative value to his statement. I submit that the appropriate order in the circumstance is for the court to order a final forfeiture of the sum of N9.08 billion already surrendered by the respondent, to the Federal government. I urge the court to so hold,” he said
After listening to the submission of the counsels of the two parties, Justice Hassan fixed February 16, 2017 to decide either to forfeit the money to the Federal Government or not.