The Nigerian government has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to freeze all hidden assets that were traced to the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
This demand was made via an ex-parte motion filed by legal practitioner, Festus Keyamo on behalf of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.
The motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/284/2018, specifically applied for an interim court order "temporarily attaching/forfeiting the properties listed in Schedule B hereunder, to the Federal Government of Nigeria, pending the conclusion of further inquiry/investigation by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property and/or possible arraignment of the Respondent".
The motion was based on section 330 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, section 8 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, section 44 (2) (K) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The properties listed in the Schedule B, which the Federal Government is seeking to seize from Mr. Ekweremadu over his failure to declare them, are: No. 11, Evans Enwerem Street, Apo Legislative Quarters, Apo, Abuja; Plot 2633 Kyami, Abuja, Housing Estate; (Plot 1106 CRD, Cadastral Zone 07-07, Lugbe, Abuja; Plot 2782 Asokoro Extension, Abuja; Houses at Citi Park Estate, Gwagwalada, Abuja; Plot 1474 Cadastral Zone BD6, Mabushi, Abuja; Congress Court, Abuja; Flat 1, Block D25, Athletics Street, (24th Street) Games Village, Abuja and Plot 66, 64 Crescent, Gwarimpa Estate, Abuja.
Others located in London are, Flat 4 Varsity Court, Harmer Street, WIH 4NW, London; 52 Ayleston Avenue, NW6 7AB, London.
And those in Dubai and USA are; Room 1903, The Address Hotel, Downtown Dubai; The Address Boulevard, 3901, Dubai; 2 Flats of Burij Side Boulevard (the signature), Dubai; Emirate Gardens Apartment No. EGG1/1/114, Dubai; Emirate Gardens Apartment No. EGG1/115, Dubai; Apartment No. DFB/12/B 1204, Park Towers, Dubai; Flat 3604, MAG214, Dubai and Villa No 148, Maeen 1, The Lakes Emirates Hills, Dubai; 4507 Stella Street, Bellavida Estate Kissime, Florida, USA; 2747 Club Cortile Circle, Kissime, Florida, USA and 2763 Club Cortile Circle, Kissime, Florida, USA.
While explaining to the court that ongoing investigation and inquiries revealed that the properties listed in Schedule B belonged to Mr. Ekweremadu as at the time he declared his assets, the government said "preliminary investigation by the Applicant reveals that a prima facie case of a breach of Code of Conduct for Public Officers has been made out against the Respondent."
It further told the court in an affidavit deposed to by one Yohanna Shankuk, that its investigation was based on a petition that was written against Mr. Ekweremadu by a retired Chief Judge of Enugu State, A.I. Umezulike.
It also listed 19 properties that the senator declared in the Assets Declaration Form he submitted before the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, on June 5, 2015, seven properties he declared on June 1, 2007, and details of his investments in and outside Nigeria, including his shares, debentures & other securities.
They include, "5 Bedroom Duplex & Boys Quarters, House A40 Apo Quarters, Apo, Abuja (purportedly acquired with a loan of N13.5 Million from Bank PHB);
"10 Bedroom House with Guest Chalet & Boy Quarters, 2 Jim Nwobodo Street, Apo, Abuja (purportedly acquired with a mortgage loan of N412, 200, 000.00 from Aso Savings & Loan);
"7 Bedroom House with Pent House & Boy quarters, Plot 147A Mabushi, Abuja (purportedly valued at N3, 471, 922.1 acquired with salaries & allowances);
"2 RM Apartment, MAG 214 Dubai (purportedly bought for $ 50,000.00); 4 Bedroom Town House, The Lake Dubai (purportedly bought for $20,000.00); 4 RM Town House, Florida (he claims he bought this House from a loan of $155,000.00 gotten from PHB), among other property.
"Plots 2 & 10, Republic Layout, Enugu (undeveloped land, purportedly valued at N4 Million); Plot 1518, Maitama Extension, Abuja undeveloped land (purportedly valued at N10 Million); Plot 2882, Asokoro Extension, Abuja (purportedly valued at N13 Million);
"2 RM Apartment, Burjside Boulevard, Dubai, UAE (he claims he bought it for $250,000.00); One Room Apartment, Emirate Garden, Dubai, UAE (He claims he bought it for $60,000.00);
"Park Tower, Dubai, UAE (He claims he bought it for $250,000.00); 3 Room Town House (2), Club Corticle, Orlando, USA (he claims he bought this property for $200,000.00); 4 Room House, Plot 1496 AI Thannyah, Fourth, Dubai, UAE (he claims he bought this property for $250,000.00);
"4 Bedroom Terrace House, Games Village; 6 Bedroom Storey House & Boys Quarters, Amachara MPU, Enugu; 4 Bedroom House and Boy Quarters, Federal Housing Estate, Enugu; 3000 Square Meters of undeveloped land at Amachara, MPU, Enugu; 5 Hectares of land, Tutu District, Abuja".
It also listed investments, in and outside Nigeria (Shares, Debentures & Other Securities), which Mr. Ekweremadu declared in 2015, as; "5, 100,000 - Citi Park Luxury Hotels Ltd (purportedly valued at N350 Million); 8, 000, 000 - Prime & Power Media Ltd ((purportedly valued at N30 Million);
"300,000,000 - Bety Air Ltd ((purportedly valued at N5 Million); 40, 000 - Prime & Power Konsult Ltd (purportedly valued at N42 Million); 50,000 - Power Properties Ltd (purportedly valued at N50 Million); 70,000 - Spider Construction Ltd (purportedly valued at N35 Million)".
It stated that Mr. Ekweremadu had in 2007, declared, "4 Bedroom Terrace House, Games Village, Abuja, A Storey Building at Amachara (MPU) (Country home), A Storey Building & Boy Quarters with Boys Quarters at Federal Housing, Enugu; Apo Legislative Quarters, Apo, Abuja;
"2644.60 Square meters of undeveloped Land at Asokoro, Abuja; 1000.577 Square meters, Kurubuma Layout, Abuja, 3000 Square meters, Amachara MPU".
While details of his declared investments was given as; "40, 000 - Prime & Power Konsult Ltd (purportedly valued at N40 Million); 50,000 - Prime Properties Ltd (purportedly valued at N50 Million); 70,000 - Spider Construction Ltd (purportedly valued at N36 Million).
"5, 100,000 - Citi Park Luxury Hotels Ltd (purportedly valued at N350 Million); 8, 000, 000 - Prime & Power Media Ltd (purportedly valued at N30 Million); 300,000,000 - Bety Air Ltd (purportedly valued at N5 Million);
"40, 000 - Prime & Power Konsult Ltd (purportedly valued at N42 Million); 50,000 - Power Properties Ltd (purportedly valued at N50 Million); and 70,000 - Spider Construction Ltd (purportedly valued at N35 Million)".
It told the court that "from 1999 till date, the Respondent has been a public officer and has not earned anything outside his salaries and allowances as a public officer.
"That upon assumption of office in 2007, the Assets Declaration the Respondent made in 2007 does not reveal that he had acquired so much money or properties prior to that date. Attached as EXHIBIT F is the 2007 Assets Declaration Form of the Respondent.
"That within a space of 16 years (1999 - 2015), investigation has revealed that the Respondent acquired all properties listed in Schedules A and B.
"That in his 2015 Assets Declaration Form before the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Respondent only declared the properties listed in Schedule A. Attached as EXHIBIT G is a Certified True Copy of the Assets Declaration Form of the Respondent of 2015.
"That the Respondent failed to declare the Assets listed in Schedule B. That investigations have also revealed that even the total value of the properties listed in Schedule A is far above his total earnings as a public officer in the said 16-year period.
"That it has become imperative for the Applicant to approach this Honourable Court for an Order temporarily attaching/forfeiting the said properties listed in Schedule B to the Federal Government of Nigeria pending the conclusion of further investigations and possible arraignment of the Respondent.
"That without the orders of this Honourable Court attaching/forfeiting the said properties, the likelihood of the frustration of investigations as well as the dissipation of the said properties is very high.
While stressing that the matter is of utmost public interests and concern, to enable the applicant carry out a thorough investigation into the activities of the respondent in the acquisition of the said properties as it relates to the allegation of a breach of Code of Conduct for Public Officers, it explained that the order "is necessary to enable the Panel carry out its statutory duties and functions of investigation and recovery of public properties".
Reacting to the demand, Mr. Ekweremadu, via a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said he has no further assets to declare as he declared all his assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by law.
The senator also blamed the demand on a vendetta and smear campaign allegedly championed by Okoi Obono-Obla, the president's special assistant on prosecution who also serves as the chairman of the recovery panel.
Mr. Ekweremadu's statement read, "The attention of the Office of the Deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has been drawn to a Motion Exparte filed by Festus Keyamo Chambers on behalf of the so-called Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property for an order to temporarily forfeit assets it claimed the Senator did not declare with the Code of Conduct Bureau.
"Senator Ekweremadu, however, wishes to state unequivocally that there is no asset to forfeit as he declared all his assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by law.
"The so-called Panel sought and obtained his Assets Declaration Forms, but could not look at them since it is clearly out on a vendetta and smear campaign championed by Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla.
"This is clearly part of the politics of 2019, and is further exposing those, who colluded with the dismissed former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike and his cronies to steal and doctor his will.
"The Senator has, nevertheless, briefed his lawyers and will meet the panel in court. Again, Senator Ekweremadu wishes to assure all his supporters and well-wishers that there is nothing to worry about.
"Like others, this too shall pass."
The suit is, however, yet to be assigned to a judge for hearing.