Former minister kicks as EFCC seeks final forfeiture of N14 billion jewellery

Nigeria's Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum Resources and Alternate President of the OPEC

A former Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, has urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to refuse an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the final forfeiture of her 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised golden iPhone.

The court, on July 5, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the items valued at $40 million (about N14.4 billion), which were recovered from the former minister’s home.

Justice Nicholas Oweibo ruled on an ex parte application in which the commission said the items were suspected to be bought with illicitly acquired funds.

But, in a counter-motion filed through her lawyer, Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), the former minister urged the court to order that the items be returned to her.

She accused the EFCC of illegally gaining access to her apartment and taking the items without a court order.

Besides, the former minister said seizing her jewellery was a violation of her fundamental right to own property under sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution and “to appropriate them at her discretion”.

Mrs Alison-Madueke, who is said to be under investigation in the United Kingdom (UK), urged the court to reject EFCC’s prayer to permanently forfeit the jewellery and the golden iPhone to the Federal Government.

The former minister contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to grant the interim forfeiture order.

According to her, EFCC did not charge her with any crime or serve her with any summons.

Mrs Alison-Madueke said the temporary forfeiture order was prejudicial to her because she was denied fair hearing.

Hearing on the application was stalled yesterday due to Prof Kalu’s absence.

A lawyer from his chambers, Chukwuka Obidike, said the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was handling an election petition case.

He sought an adjournment.

Mrs Alison-Madueke is the defendant in the application filed pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act Number 14, 2006.

The EFCC said it found and recovered the jewellery and the customised golden iPhone “on the premises of the respondent”.

The anti-graft agency added that it reasonably suspected that the former minister acquired them with “proceeds of unlawful activities”.

According to a schedule attached to the application, the jewellery, categorised into 33 sets, include “419 expensive bangles and 315 expensive rings”.

Others are: 304 expensive earrings, 267 expensive necklaces, 189 expensive wristwatches and 174 expensive necklaces and earrings.

The rest are: 78 expensive bracelets, 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.

EFCC said: “The respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Justice Oweibo ordered that the 2,149 pieces of jewellery and the customised gold iPhone be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judge ordered the anti-graft agency to publish the forfeiture order in a national newspaper.

It is “for the respondent or anyone who is interested in the property sought to be forfeited to appear before this honourable court to show cause within 14 days why a final forfeiture order of the said property should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria”.

Justice Oweibo adjourned till August 29 for hearing.

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