By Lukman Olabiyi
Three companies have approached the Federal High Court Lagos, to stop permanent forfeiture of 56 houses allegedly bought between 2011 and 2013 for $21,982,224 million (N3, 320,000,000 billion) by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The companies: Chapel Properties Limited, Blue Nile Estate Limited, and Vistapoint Property Development Limited were among the four firms listed as respondents alongside the former minister in the temporary forfeiture order granted by Justice Abdulaziz Anka of the court on August 22.
The judge gave the verdict while ruling on an ex parte application filed on August 16 and argued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking for temporary forfeiture of the property.
Justice Anka, who sat as a vacation judge, in his ruling, ordered EFCC to appoint a firm to manage the property and gave the respondents 14 days to show cause why the assets should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Besides, the judge directed the commission to publish the order in any national newspaper and adjourned the case till yesterday.
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Mr. Anselem Ozioko appeared for EFCC while Emmanuel Bassey from the Chamber of I. N Umezurike (SAN) appeared for the three companies which were third, fourth and sixth respondents.
Bassey informed Justice Obiozor, who sat as vacation judge that there was a pending application requesting that the EFCC should serve the respondents with the ex-parte application which was used to secure the interim order of forfeiture of the said property so that same could be responded to.
He claimed that an order of the court, EFCC directed the commission to serve it on them.
But Ozioko, who stated that there was no such order mandating the commission to serve the ex-parte application on the respondents, argued that the companies involved had no directors and did not even exist.
“We have obtained an interim order in respect of this suit and the case adjourned till today for report and to also allow the respondents to show cause why the property should not be finally forfeited. But this morning, we were served with a motion on notice by one Mr. Nnamdi Eze Anochie. We are asking for time to respond and to take the application for final forfeiture,” he said.
After listening to the submission of the parties, Justice Obiozor fixed a tentative date of September 22, to entertain the application for the final forfeiture and other pending applications
The EFCC had said that an associate of the ex-minister informed the agency that he registered the 18 companies to assist her in holding the titles of the temporarily forfeited property