A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has urged Justice Nicholas Oweibo of a Federal High Court in Lagos to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to return the 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised gold iPhone, valued at $40 million, which were seized from her.
The plea was contained in a motion filed by the former minister seeking to vacate an interim order secured by the anti-graft agency to forfeit the items to the Federal Government.
Justice Oweibo had on 5th July, 2019, gave the interim forfeiture order upon the granting of an ex-parte motion filed by EFCC.
In his arguments, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said the motion titled, ‘action in rem,’ had the former minister as the only respondent and it was filed pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Offences Act No. 14, 2006.
The lawyer added that the motion was filed following the recovery of the items “on the premises of the respondent, adding that it reasonably suspected that the former minister acquired them with “proceeds of unlawful activities.
According to the schedule attached to the ex-parte motion, the jewelleries, categorised into 33 sets, includes “419 expensive bangles; 315 expensive rings; 304 expensive earrings; 267 expensive necklaces; 189 expensive wristwatches; 174 expensive necklaces and earrings; 78 expensive bracelets; 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.”
Oyedepo further told the court that the respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the property sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Dissatisfied, Diezani, in a motion filed through her lawyer, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), accused EFCC of entering her apartment illegally and taking the items without any court order.
She argued that the anti-graft agency violated her fundamental “right to own property and to appropriate them at her discretion,” under Sections 43 and 44 of the Constitution.
The former minister urged the court to vacate the interim forfeiture order on the items, saying it lacks the jurisdiction to give such directive as she was neither charged for any offence nor served with any summons by EFCC.
The matter has been adjourned to 29th August, 2019, for the hearing of Diezani’s motion.