The court hearing of Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke’s suit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the final forfeiture of her seized assets has been postponed till December 7, 2023.
The case was originally scheduled for October 23, 2023. The new date is due to the absence of the presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo.
The case, identified as FHC/ABJ/CS/21/23, holds significant importance in the ongoing legal proceedings surrounding Diezani Alison-Madueke’s assets.
This delay comes after earlier preparations, where both Alison-Madueke’s legal representative, Mr. Benson Igbanoi, and the EFCC’s counsel, M.D. Baraya had regularized their legal processes, News Agency of Nigeria reports.
The EFCC’s interest in this matter stems from their intention to conduct a public sale of assets they believe to be the proceeds of criminal activities.
The seized assets, including properties connected to Diezani Alison-Madueke, were marked for permanent forfeiture to the Federal Government.
The auctioning process commenced on January 9, initiating a complex legal battle.
Diezani Alison-Madueke’s tenure as Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources between 2010 and 2015 is marked by allegations of financial impropriety and corruption.
She has been accused of accumulating substantial wealth through illegal means. Following her exit from public office, she allegedly fled to the United Kingdom (UK), where she has remained.
In response to the threat of her assets being permanently forfeited, Alison-Madueke filed a legal motion seeking an extension of the time limit to apply to the court for an order to set aside the EFCC’s public notice regarding the sale of her property.
Her lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, filed this motion marked as FHC/ABJ/CS/21/2023 on January 6.
In this motion, Alison-Madueke requested five specific orders from the court, arguing that the initial orders were made without jurisdiction and should be set aside “ex debito justitiae.”
She contended that she was not afforded a fair hearing in the preceding proceedings.
One of her primary arguments was that the various court orders were issued in breach of her right to fair hearing, a constitutional right guaranteed by Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
She maintained that she was not served with the charge sheet, proof of evidence, or any other summons related to the criminal charges against her.
Furthermore, she claimed that the courts were misled into issuing several final forfeiture orders due to the suppression or non-disclosure of material facts.
According to her, void orders are tantamount to orders never made at all, and these orders infringed upon her constitutional rights to a fair hearing and property.
In response, the EFCC, through a counter affidavit deposed by Rufai Zaki, a detective within the commission, urged the court to dismiss Alison-Madueke’s application.
Zaki, who was part of the team investigating the former minister, stated that their investigations had revealed her involvement in criminal activities, leading to her subsequent charge in court under charge number FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018.
The EFCC relied on the charge filed in November 2018 and attached it as Exhibit C in their response.
In response to Diezani Alison-Madueke’s claims, Rufai Zaki refuted her allegations, citing that the cases leading to the final forfeiture of her contested property were actions in rem, duly heard and decided by the court. He also highlighted the court-ordered publication of notices for parties to show cause.
Zaki addressed Alison-Madueke’s legal representation, noting that Nnamdi Awa Kalu had represented her in response to one forfeiture application.
He referenced a judgment by Hon. Justice I.LN. Oweibo dated September 10, 2019, as evidence against her claims.
Zaki emphasized that the final forfeiture of the assets in question had been ordered by the court in 2017, with no subsequent overturning on appeal.
The EFCC has not limited its legal pursuits to this case. They have also filed a money laundering suit against Alison-Madueke under FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018, which is currently before Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon.
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