Nigeria’s Ex-Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has began the process of recovering her assets seized by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the orders of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
In an originating motion, the ex-minister prayed the court to vacate an order granted to the EFCC for final forfeiture of her seized assets.
She also wants an order extending the time within which to seek leave to apply to the court for an order to set aside the EFCC’s public notice issued to conduct public sale on her property.
The anti-corruption agency had planned to conduct public sale of all assets seized from her beginning from January 9 as contained in its public notice following various court judgments/orders issued in favour of the commission as final forfeiture orders against property and personal effects of the former minister.
But in the motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/21/2023 dated and filed January 6 by her lawyer, Mike Ozekhome before Justice Inyang Ekwo, the ex-minister sought five orders from the court.
Diezani, who argued that the various court orders were made without jurisdiction, said they “ought to be set aside ex debito justitiae.”
She said she was not given fair hearing in all the proceedings leading to the orders.
“The various court orders issued in favour of the respondent and upon which the respondent issued the public notice to conduct public sale of items contained in the public notice most of which court the interest of the applicant were issued in breach of the applicant’s right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as altered, and other similar constitutional provisions,” she said.
Diezani argued that she was neither served with the charge sheet and proof of evidence in any of the charges nor any other summons howsoever and whatsoever in respect of the criminal charges pending against her before the court.
She further argued that the courts were misled into making several of the final forfeiture orders against her assets through suppression or non-disclosure of material facts.
“The several applications upon which the courts made the final order of forfeiture against the applicant were obtained upon gross misstatements, misrepresentations, non-disclosure, concealment and suppression of material facts and this honourable court has the power to set-aside same ex debito justitiae, as a void order is as good as if it was never made at all.
“The orders were made without recourse to the constitutional right to fair hearing and right to property accorded the applicant by the constitution.
“The applicant was never served with the processes of court in all the proceedings that led to the order of final forfeiture,” she said, among other grounds given.
But the EFCC, in a counter affidavit deposed to by Rufai Zaki, a detective with the commission, urged the court to dismiss her application.
Zaki, who was a member of the team that investigated a case of criminal conspiracy, official corruption and money laundering against the ex-minister and some other persons involved in the case, said investigation had clearly shown that she was involved in some acts of criminality.
He said contrary to her deposition in the affidavit in support, most of the cases which led to the final forfeiture of the contested property “were action in rem, same were heard at various times and determined by this honourable court.”
The officer said that the contrary to her, the final forfeiture of the assets which were subject of the present application was ordered by the court since 2017 and that this was not set aside or upturned on appeal.
According to him, the property have been disposed off through due process of law.
Upon mentioning the matter on Monday, Diezani’s counsel, Oluchi Uche, told Justice Ekwo that they were served by the EFFC on Friday and they would need time to respond to the counter affidavit.
The matter was adjourned until May 8 for the hearing.
Confiance News recalls that Diezani served as the Minister of Petroleum in 2010 and became the first woman to hold such position in Nigeria.
She was also the first female president of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2014.