The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday took possession of 48 properties traced to the former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timpre Sylva.
Sylva is currently standing trial at a Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged misappropriation of N6.46 billion state funds when he was governor of the state.
A statement signed by the acting head of media and publicity, EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, said Justice A. R. Mohammed granted an interim forfeiture order for the commission on December 28, 2012.
Uwajaren said the assets belonging to the former governor against which a forfeiture order was obtained by the EFCC include a mansion at 3 River Niger Street, Plot 3192 Cadastral zone AO, Maitama District, Abuja; nine units (comprising six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments) at 8 Sefadu Street, Wuse Zone 2; Plot 262 Cadastral zone AO2, Wuse Abuja; two-unit duplexes at 5 Oguta Street, Plot 906 Cadastral zone, Wuse II, Abuja.
"Others are a duplex at Plot 1271 Nike Street Cadastral Zone AO5, Maitama District, Abuja; a duplex at Phase 1 Unit No. 1 (Villa 1) Palm Springs Gold Estate; Cachez Turkey Projects Limited, Mpape, Abuja; 10 units of one-room apartments at 8 Mistrata Street, Plot 232 Cadastral Zone, Wuse II, Abuja; 5 units duplexes at Plot No 1070 Dakibiyu District Cadastral zone B10, Abuja; 16 units service apartments at Plot 1181 Thaba Tseka Crescent, Off IBB Way, Wuse 11, Abuja; and 3 units of three-bedroom flats at No. 1 Mubi Close, Plot 766. Cadastral Zone A01, Garki, Abuja.
But Sylva reacted yesterday night, saying the claims by the EFCC are completely misleading and sheer display of lawlessness.
A press statement signed by Sylva's media adviser, Doife Ola, stated the houses in question do not belong to Sylva.
Ola said that it is not surprisingly, but rather is in line with EFCC's known bully-boy tactics and media hysteria "Sylva's property are intact, and fully covered by the order validly issued by Justice M.M. Kolo of the Abuja High Court on 27 December 2012.
"Sylva had applied to the court for "an interim order of court for the service of the originating process on the respondent to serve as a stay of all actions in respect of the properties - Plot no 262, Cadastral Zone A02, Wuse 1, District, Abuja; Plot 3192, located within Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama District, Abuja; Plot 232, Cadastral Zone A07(No. 8 Mistrata Street; Wuse II, Abuja) deriving his/her authority from them; either by sealing off, confiscating, ejecting any person from the properties, trespassing into the properties or doing any other thing however so described relating to the said properties pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
"This application was granted and hearing in the matter is fixed for 04 January 2013. Justice A.R. Mohammed never granted any temporary asset forfeiture order to the EFCC on 21 December 2012. Rather, he directed EFCC to put Sylva on notice and the substantive matter is fixed for 10 January 2013.
"EFCC as a creation of the law cannot be seen to be acting lawlessly, and with impunity."
Sylva was first arraigned on Tuesday June 5, 2012 on a six-count charge. The charges read in part: "That you, Timpre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, sometime between October 2009 and February 2010, at various places in Nigeria, including Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court did conspire to commit a crime to wit: conversion of properties and resources amounting to N2,000,000,000.00 (Two Billion Naira) belonging to Bayelsa State Government and derived from an illegal act, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said amount and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act), 2004 and punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act.
"That you, Timpre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, on or about the 22nd of January, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N380,000,000.00 (Three Hundred and Eighty Million Naira), property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Habibu Sani Maigidia, a Bureau De Change operator with Account No. 221433478108, in Fin Bank Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.
"That you, Timpre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, on or about the 5th of February, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira), property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Enson Benmer Limited with Account No. 6152030001946, in First Bank, Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act."