The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered an interim forfeiture of about N1bn in an Access Bank Plc’s account to the Federal Government.
The total sum of N1,041,999,130.00 said to be found in the Access Bank account of the late Lord Chief Ifegwu Dike Udensi was described by investigators as “proceeds of unlawful activity.”
The court made an order freezing the account pending the conclusion of the investigation being carried out by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, led by Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla.
Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu who had granted the order of interim forfeiture on April 10, directed the SPIPRPP to publish the order in any national newspaper within 14 days.
The order sighted by our correspondent on Monday also directed that persons or bodies interested in the account were at liberty to, within 14 days of the publication, apply to the court through a motion on notice for the discharge or variation of the order.
It directed that such persons or bodies could apply for the discharge or variation of such orders “on such grounds as are cognizable by law or show cause why a final order of forfeiture should not be granted.”
The court also directed that in the event that the ongoing investigation revealed prima facie evidence, the Federal Government, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the SPIPRPP should institute charges against the suspects within a court of competent jurisdiction.
The court had granted the orders upon hearing an ex parte application filed on behalf of the SPIPRPP by its lawyer, Dr. Celsus Ukpong, on April 10.
The Federal Government and the Attorney-General of the Federation with the SPIPRPP were named as the applicants in the ex parte motion FHC/ABJ/CS/290/2018.
Those joined as the respondents were Access Bank, Lord Chief Ifegwu Dike Udensi and Lady Joyce Dike Udensi Ifegwu, a former Chairman of the defunct Citizens International Bank Limited.
Upon hearing the applicant’s lawyer, the court ruled, “It is hereby ordered as follows:
“An order of interim forfeiture is hereby made of the total sum of N1,041,999,133.00 (one billion, forty-one million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, one hundred and ninety naira only ) domiciled in the account of the 2nd respondent (Lord Chief Dike Udensi Ifegwu) with account number 00071644325, with the 1st respondent bank (Access Bank) being alleged to be proceeds of unlawful activity pending the conclusion of the investigation of the subject matter.
“An order is hereby made prohibiting any disposal or withdrawal or posting of any debit from the said account of the 2nd respondent pending the conclusion of the investigation of the subject matter.
“The 3rd applicant (SPIPRPP) or its agents shall publish this order in any national newspaper (legible font size) within 14 days of the date of this order.
“Any person/persons or bodies who may be interested in the subject funds is at liberty within 14 days of the publication of this order to apply to this court by a motion on notice for the discharge or variation of this order herein granted on such grounds as are cognizable by law or show cause why a final order of forfeiture should not be granted.
“Where the investigation reveals a prima facie evidence of economic and financial crime/fraud, the applicants shall institute a criminal prosecution against the suspects before a court of competent jurisdiction.”
The judge t adjourned the matter till May 9, 2018, for report.