A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Wednesday, December 15, 2021, dismissed the application filed by one Francis Momoh and affirmed the final forfeiture of properties worth N1.8bn recovered from a former Executive Director, Projects, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Tuoyo Omatsuli, to the Federal Government.
Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, had, on Monday, December 10, 2018, ordered the final forfeiture of the properties which include Block 117, Plot 4, Lekki Peninsula Scheme, TPAO 992, Ikate Ancient City, Eti-Osa L.G.A, Lagos, measuring 1804.089Sqm and Plots 1-18, Block 43, TPAO 992, Ikate Ancient City, Lekki Peninsula, Eti-Osa, Lagos, measuring 10,000Sqm.
Others are Plot 1b, Northern Business District, Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1, measuring 1000Sqm and Plot 1; Block 25, Lekki Peninsula Residential Scheme 1, Eti-Osa L.G.A, measuring 2989.10Sqm, to the Federal Government.
Dissatisfied with the Order, Momoh had approached the appellate court seeking to set aside the order of the court.
But in a judgment read by Justice Daniel Kalio, the appellate court held that Momoh did not place any material before the court “to enable it to disturb the findings of the lower court”.
The appellate court also held that Momoh’s appeal lacked merit and was accordingly dismissed.
“The judgment of the lower court is affirmed,” it further held.
Counsel to the EFCC, Ekene Iheanacho, while moving ex parte application for the interim forfeiture of the properties had referred to paragraph four of the affidavit, detailing how a contractor with the NDDC, Starline Consultancy Services Limited, was paid the sum of N10, 218, 019, 060.59) (Ten Billion, Two Hundred and Eighteen Million, Nineteen Thousand and Sixty Naira) as consultancy fee for levies collected from oil-producing companies in the Niger Delta region.
It was further stated that out of the money paid to Starline, a sum of N3, 645, 000. 00 (Three Billion, Six Hundred, and Forty-Five Thousand Naira) was paid as a kickback to Omatsuli through a company named Building Associates Limited.
“Some of the funds were used by Building Associates to buy properties in the name of a company, Don Parker Properties Limited, where Omatsuli had majority shareholding,” Iheanacho had further told the court.
Iheanacho had also told the court that Momoh, whom he described as the majority shareholder in Building Associates Limited, was introduced as a shareholder in Don Parker Properties Limited so as to disguise the nature of the crime.
After hearing the submissions, Justice Obiozor, had granted all the reliefs sought by the applicant and ordered the interim forfeiture of the properties to the Federal Government.
The Judge had further directed the Commission to publish the Order in any national newspaper within 14 days, notifying the respondents or anyone interested in the properties to appear before the court and show cause why the properties should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The applicant, in compliance with the court’s order, had published the interim forfeiture order in The Nation Newspaper of May 26, 2018. However, the respondents had, on October 1, 2018, opposed the application, claiming ownership of the properties.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Obiozor, had held that the properties were acquired through proceeds from kickbacks received by Building Associate Limited operated by Momoh on behalf of Tuoyo; and ruled that the properties be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.