Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Monday granted an order of interim forfeiture of N510m belonging to former Commander, Presidential Air Fleet (PAF), Air Vice Marshall Uko Ebong.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed granted the order in a ruling on an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The prosecution counsel from the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ekele Iheanacho, had claimed that the money was contained in an account belonging to a company owned by Ebong, Elioenai International College.
He said the money formed part of the N731million allegedly paid to the former air chief, through a company with which he allegedly has a link, Magnificent V Ventures Limited, from the office of the former National Security Adviser (ONSA) without any contractual agreement.
According to the EFCC, AVM Ebong was the Commander PAF between 2013 and July 2015.
In the ruling on Monday, Justice Mohammed said he was convinced that the EFCC had made out a case to warrant the grant of the interim forfeiture order.
“An order is hereby made for the interim forfeiture of the sum of N510,000,000 in Sterling Bank account No: 0029581583 recovered by the applicant, which funds are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities,” he ruled.
Mohammed further ordered the EFCC to publicise the said order and for anyone who is interested in the funds in respect of which the order was made, to appear before the court and show cause, within 14 days, why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The EFCC stated, in a supporting affidavit, that “AVM Ebong, while being a public officer managed and used private companies to carry out financial transactions while concealing his identity.
“These companies are Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd, Tripple Kay Company Nigeria Ltd and Elionenai International College Ltd.
“Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd is a company registered with the CAC. Though directors of the company on paper are Mrs. Ebong Mercy Uko (the wife of AVM Ebong) and Ekpo Ubong Asuquo (AVM’s in-law i.e brother to AVM’s wife); AVM Ebong controlled the financial dealings of the company.
“Without any contractual agreement, a total sum of N731, 000, 000.00 was paid to Magnificent 5 Ventures Limited between May, 2014 and October, 2014 by the ONSA under the guise of payment for renovation of PAF barracks, PAF staff quarters.
“There is no proof of any work carried out by Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd based on which the above payments were made to it.
“The payments were made into the Sterling Bank Plc Account No. 0026142493 operated by Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd. Mrs. Ebong Mercy Uko and her brother Ekpo Ubong Asuquo are also the signatories to the said Bank account of Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd.
“That upon receipt of the above funds into the account of Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd, the funds were transferred and fixed deposited in the Sterling Bank Account of Tripple Kay Company Nigeria Ltd.
“The transfer instructions were purportedly authorised by Mrs. Ebong – the wife of AVM Ebong.
“Tripple Kay Company Ltd is a registered company with its directors as Ebong Ikanke and Ebong Mercy Uko. AVM Ebong signed as director in the CAC particulars of Directors with the name Ebong Ikanke.
“AVM Ebong also not only signed as the company’s secretary in the company’s Board resolution in opening account with Sterling Bank; he was similarly signatory to the account of the company at all material times.
“The sum of N510, 000,000.00 was transferred from the Sterling Bank Account of Tripple Kay Company Nig. Ltd to the account of Elionenai International College on 18th January, 2016.
“Elioenai International College Ltd is a registered company whose account in Sterling Bank Plc had Adesina Kolawale as the sole signatory.
“Mr. Kolawale, in his extra judicial statement to the applicant (EFCC), stated that though he was the sole signatory to the Sterling Bank account of Elioenai International College Ltd, AVM Ebong signed all the transaction instruments on the account being the owner of all the funds that passed through the account.”