Hope of embattled ex-minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke of securing the release of 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised gold iPhone, valued at $40m currently in custody of the Federal government has been dashed.
The jewellery and customised gold iPhone, valued at $40m were recovered from the Abuja home of the former minister by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
In July, EFCC approached the Federal High Court, Lagos, to secure temporary forfeiture of the ornaments, following an ex-parte application moved before Justice Nicholas Oweibo.
In the application which the EFCC used to secure temporary forfeiture of the item, the commission alleged that the $40m jewellery and other items were product of unlawful activities.
These items include over 419 bangles, 315 rings, 304 earrings, 189 wristwatches, 267 necklaces, and a customised gold iPhone.
However, due to the court’s verdict on the item, the ex-minister through her counsel approached the court to stop the final forfeiture of the property to FG by challenging the court.
At the last adjourned date, Diezani’s lawyer, Nnamdi Awa-Kalu, told the court that his client’s application challenging the court’s jurisdiction was pursuant to Section 43 and 44 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and 83 and 84 of the EFCC Act.
Awa-kalu also told the court that the application was supported with an 11- paragraph affidavit.
He urged the court to refuse the EFCC’s temptation and discharge the interim order placed on his client’s items.
But the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged court to discountenance Diezani’s application. He told the court it is empowered by Section 17 and 14 of Advance Fee Fraud to hear and determined a case of this nature.
Oyedepo also told the court that the objections raised by Diezani’s was not an issue, as a case of such nature had been settled in an Appeal court decision in a case between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Patience Jonathan and LA Warri Furniture Limited and some other cases of its nature.
He, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the respondent’s application and also make an order for final forfeiture of the said items.
The court, after listening to arguments of both parties, however, fixed ruling on the matter till September 10.
Delivering ruling on Tuesday, Justice Oweibo held that Diezani, through her lawyer, Awa Kalu (SAN), failed to show cause why the items should not be permanently forfeited to FG
It upheld the argument of EFCC that the jewellery and iPhone were reasonably suspected to be acquired with fraud proceeds because the items were beyond Diezani’s legitimate earnings.
The former Minister of Petroleum Resources is currently in United Kingdom where she is also being investigated for money laundering.