18 August 2017

Nigeria: Court Orders Temporary Forfeiture of Perm Sec's Money, Property to Govt

A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered a retiring Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to temporarily forfeit N664 million and $137,680.11 to the Federal Government.

The respondent, Clement Onubuogo, allegedly diverted the money from the Sure-P programme launched by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Apart from the funds, Onubuogo was also ordered to temporarily forfeit two properties, which he acquired with funds allegedly diverted from the youth empowerment scheme.

He is to forfeit his Clement Illoh's Mansion at Issele-Azagba and a hotel on No. 19, Madue Nwofor Street, off Achala-Ibuza Road, Asaba in Delta State.

Vacation judge, Abdulaziz Anka ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds and the assets following an ex parte application by a counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Oyedepo.

In the application, the EFCC said the funds and the properties were suspected to be proceeds of bribery.

In an eight-paragraph affidavit in support of the application, an investigator with the EFCC, Huleji Tukura, said the anti-graft agency uncovered how the respondent diverted N876.9m out of the over N10bn released for the scheme.

Tukura said the EFCC also discovered that Onubuogo, who was responsible for supervising the Sure-P Technical and Vocational Educational Training, Community Service, Women and Youth Empowerment Programmes, collected bribes from contractors.

He was also accused of fraudulently awarding contracts to himself using fronts and some of his workers.

"Through a fictitious contract, the respondent along with John Tsokwa and Salisu Kura conspired and procured N29m out of which N10.5m was retained by the respondent," he said.

Tukura added that the respondent received another N37.8m, which was diverted through Agoha Joseph Emeka, who worked with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment for his personal use.

"The respondent also converted N159.7m, which he subsequently laundered through Ojeagu Global Services Limited, a company owned by his family with a Zenith Bank account."

Onubuogo was also accused of laundering N182.5m, which the EFCC said was found in his Access Bank and First Bank accounts that he failed to declare.

The EFCC told Anka that it had already recovered N129.8m from Onubuogo's co-conspirators namely: Salisu Kura, Rabiu Said, Tonye Isokeiri, Buhari Dahiru, John Kanku and Ahmed Muazu.

Others are Muktar Sufian, Udoh Nnamdi, Umar Mashi, Salogu Karo, Usman Bello and Ahmed Makki.

After granting the interim forfeiture of the funds and assets, Anka directed the EFCC to publish the forfeiture orders in a national newspaper.

He adjourned till September 6, 2017 for anyone interested in the funds and the assets to convince the court why the temporary forfeiture orders should not be made permanent.

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