Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Monday, pleaded with the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to return jewellery worth over $40 million confiscated from her residence.
Diezani, currently resident in the United Kingdom, UK, accused the EFCC of entering her apartment illegally and taking the items without any court order.
In an application filed on her behalf by Prof Awa Kalu, SAN, she said the anti-graft agency violated her fundamental “right to own property and to appropriate them at her discretion,” under sections 43 and 44 of the constitution.
She urged the court to reject the prayer by the EFCC to permanently seize the jewellery and the gold iPhone to the Federal Government.
In July, the EFCC had secured an order of the court to temporarily forfeit the collection of jewellery and a gold iPhone to the Federal Government.
According to the schedule attached to the application, the jewellery was categorised into 33 sets, which include 419 expensive bangles, 315 expensive rings, 304 expensive earrings, 267 expensive necklaces, 189 expensive wristwatches, 174 expensive necklaces and earrings, 78 expensive bracelets, 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.
After granting the interim forfeiture order on July 5, the court adjourned till August 19 for Diezani or anyone interested in the confiscated properties to appear before it to give reasons why the items should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the anti-graft agency told the court that the EFCC found and recovered the jewellery and the customised gold iPhone stating that operatives of the agency reasonably suspected that the former minister acquired them with “proceeds of unlawful activities”.
“The respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” he said.
Kalu argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to have granted the interim forfeiture order in the first place as the former minister had not been charged with any crime or served with any summons by the EFCC.
The presiding judge, Nichola Oweibo adjourned the case till August 29 for further hearing on the matter.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.