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Ex-Minister of Petroleum files lawsuit seeking to recover her seized assets

Diezani Alison-Madueke, Former Minister of Petroleum, has filed a lawsuit seeking to vacate an order granting final forfeiture of her assets to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In the lawsuit filed before a federal high court in Abuja, the former Minister sought for 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.

Diezani, through her lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, is seeking for five orders from the court. While Alison-Madueke is the applicant, the EFCC is the sole respondent in the suit.

She argued that all the orders of forfeiture obtained by the EFCC were made without jurisdiction of the courts and “ought to be set aside ex debito justitiae”.

The former Minister is also claiming she was not given fair hearing in all the proceedings leading to the orders nor was she notified about the proceedings or served with the court processes.

According to her, she was neither served with the charge sheet and proof of evidence in any of the charge nor any other summons howsoever and whatsoever in respect of the criminal charges pending against her before the court.

Diezani also alleged that the court was misled into making several of the final forfeiture orders against her assets through suppression or non-disclosure of material facts.

She said;

“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.

“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.”

The EFCC, in a counter affidavit through its lawyer, Rufai Zaki, described Deizani’s claims as “untrue”.

Zaki, who was a member of the team that investigated the case of alleged criminal conspiracy, official corruption and money laundering against Diezani and some other individuals, said investigations showed that Alison-Madueke was involved in some acts of criminality.

He said;

“We hereby rely on the charge FHC/ABJ/CR/208/2018 dated 14th November 2018, filed before this honourable court and also attached as Exhibit C in the applicant’s affidavit”

The EFCC lawyer also said that contrary to the former minister’s claim, 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”.

Zaki further stated that the court on different occasion ordered the commission to do a newspaper publication inviting parties to show cause why the said properties should not be forfeited to the federal government before final orders were made.

He noted that one Nnamdi Awa-Kalu represented the ex-minister in one of the forfeiture applications.

The EFCC investigator added that the order of forfeiture Diezani is challenging was granted in 2017 and that she never thought to appeal it.

Upon mentioning the matter on Monday, January 30, Alison-Madueke’s counsel, Oluchi Uche, told Justice Ekwo that they were just served by the EFFC on Friday, January 27, and they would need time to respond to the counter affidavit.

Farouk Abdullah, who appeared for the anti-graft agency, did not oppose and the judge adjourned the matter until May 8 for hearing.

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