N14b Jewelry: Diezeani Challenges EFCC Forfeiture Move
Diezani-Allison-Madueke/file photo

Former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to reject an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the final forfeiture of her 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised golden iPhone.

The court had on July 5 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the items valued at $40million (about N14.4billion), which were recovered from the former minister’s home.

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Justice Nicholas Oweibo ruled on an ex-parte application in which the commission said the items were suspected to be bought with illicitly acquired funds.

However, The Nation reported that in a counter-motion filed through her lawyer Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), Mrs. Alison-Madueke urged the court to order that the items be returned to her.

The former minister accused the anti-graft agency of gaining access to her apartment illegally and taking the items without a court order.

Besides, she said seizing her jewellery was a violation of her fundamental right to own property under sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution and “to appropriate them at her discretion”.

She urged the court to reject EFCC’s prayer to permanently forfeit the jewellery and the golden iPhone to the Federal Government.

She argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to grant the interim forfeiture order.

According to her, EFCC did not charge her with any crime or serve her with any summons.

Mrs. Alison-Madueke said the temporary forfeiture order was prejudicial to her because she was denied fair hearing.

Hearing on the application was stalled on Monday due to Prof Kalu’s absence.

A lawyer from his chambers, Chukwuka Obidike, said the SAN was handling an election petitions case.

He sought an adjournment.

Alison-Madueke is the defendant in the application filed pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Offences Act No. 14, 2006.

The EFCC said it found and recovered the jewellery and the customised golden iPhone “on the premises of the respondent”.

It added that it reasonably suspected that the former minister acquired them with “proceeds of unlawful activities.”

According to a schedule attached to the application, the jewellery, categorised into 33 sets, include “419 expensive bangles and 315 expensive rings.

Others are 304 expensive earrings, 267 expensive necklaces, 189 expensive wristwatches and 174 expensive necklaces and earrings.

The rest are 78 expensive bracelets, 77 expensive brooches, and 74 expensive pendants.

EFCC said: “The respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Justice Oweibo ordered that the 2,149 pieces of jewelries and the customised gold iPhone be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judge ordered the anti-graft agency to publish the forfeiture order in a national newspaper.

Justice Oweibo adjourned until August 29 for hearing.