The Federal Government has obtained a temporary forfeiture order of court against a Global Satellite Mobile services (GSM) provider, MTN Communications Limited.The firm by the order would forfeit to the government N8 billion in its account number 0012005379 domicile in Ecobank, suspected to be proceed of unlawful activity.
Also affected by the order of the court is another account number 1013607079 containing billions of Naira domicile in Skye bank whose owner has not file any paper before the court to contest ownership.
The suit marked FHC/L/CS/1676/2016 is filed before the Federal High Court, Lagos by an Abuja based lawyer, John Samuel Opeyemi, on behalf of Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF), and an asset recovery agent to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Algaita Group Nigeria Limited.
In an affidavit sworn to by the Managing Director of Algaita Group Limited, Abdullahi Mohammed Maiturare, a former operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), filed and argued before the court by Mr John Samuel Opeyemi, Mr Maiturare averred that the AGF appointed his company Algaita Group Nigeria Limited as Asset Recovery Agent of the Federal Government of Nigeria to track, freeze and recover funds and ensure it is remitted to the designated bank account of the Federal Government of Nigeria through legally permissible means as may be directed by the Attorney General of the Federation.
He swore that his company has credible information at its disposal which reveals that funds which are strongly believed to be Federal Government of Nigeria’s funds stolen, diverted and laundered are hidden in some coded accounts in the two banks Ecobank and Skye bank.
According to him, further credible information indicates that there is an account maintained at Ecobank Nigeria Limited in the name of MTN Nigeria Communications operating account number 0012005379 that has a credit balance of N8 billion.
From the totality of the credible information at our disposal, the applicants reasonably believe and satisfied that the funds in the possession of the two banks are unclaimed properties or proceeds of unlawful activity of stealing, diversion and money laundering of some public officials and their cronies in the private sector.
Consequently if urgent steps are not taken to obtain certified documents of the accounts and statements thereof as well as stop outward transactions on the accounts, the funds may be dissipated and the account documentation or statements may be tampered with.
In his ruling, justice Abdulaziz Anka after hearing Opeyemi, the applicants’ counsel moved in terms of the motion papers and adopt the written address filed in support of the motion.
The judge ordered that interim forfeiture of the funds lying in the accounts listed in the schedule in the custody of the two banks to the Federal Government of Nigeria.The judge also gave an order directing the publication of a notice in two National Daily newspapers inviting any person(s) who may have interest in the subject funds to, within 14 days of the publication of the order, show cause why a final order should not be made forfeiting the said funds to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The judge also made an order directing the service of the order on the respective branch managers of the respondents banks and to stop forthwith all outward payments from the subject accounts and to immediately deliver to the court the respective statements of account with certificate of authentication and other relevant documents as at the date and time of service of the court order on them.
However MTN Communications Limited has filed an application before the court, urging the court to discharge and set aside the orders made as it relates to its account held with Ecobank Limited.
The bank in an affidavit sworn to by a legal practitioner Ibukunoluwa Owa on behalf of MTN communication and filed before the court by Mr Adeniyi Adegbonmire (SAN), the deponent averred that from information delivered to him by Babatunde Adewumi, the Manager, Banking and Treasury in the employment of MTN communication limited, contended that the applicants did not comply with the order of the court as the order of the court was not published as directed by the court, therefore they were not aware of the order of the court until, Ecobank wrote a letter to the company to intimate it of the said order.