The Federal High Court in Lagos southwest Nigeria has received an application from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the permanent forfeiture of the sums of N664,475,246.6, $137,680.11 and property it recovered from the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr Clement Illoh Onubuogo, to the Federal Government.
The anti-graft agency had on August 17, secured an order of temporary forfeiture of the money, a property described as “Clement Illoh’s Mansion” located at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba in Delta State and a hotel at No. 19, Madue Nwafor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State, to the Federal Government.
In making the order, the then vacation Justice Abdul-Azeez Anka, directed the EFCC to notify the permanent secretary, in whose possession the property were found, to appear before the court and show cause within two weeks why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge equally ordered the commission to publicize the interim orders in any national daily to allow any interested party appear before him to show cause within two weeks why the order should not be made permanent.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter before another vacation judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor, on Friday ,EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, disclosed that a motion seeking the final forfeiture of the money and property to the Federal Government has been filed.
He further disclosed that the motion brought pursuant to Section 17 (4) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related offences Act has been served on the permanent secretary, who he said is yet to file a counter-affidavit.
He had earlier told the court that, as directed by Justice Anka, the EFCC had published the interim order on August 23.
In his response, Clement’s lawyer, T. S. Awhana, while acknowledging the receipt of the motion for final forfeiture, said he had already filed a counter-affidavit against it.
The lawyer added that he had equally filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to make the interim order.
According to him, it was improper for the commission to come before the Lagos court when all transactions leading to the suit were conducted in Abuja.
Awhana also informed the court of the pendency of another application seeking to discharge the interim order which he claimed was fraudulently obtained by the EFCC.
He claimed that an attempt by a court’s bailiff to serve the processes on the EFCC was unsuccessful as an official of the commission he met at its official refused to accept the court papers.
The matter was consequently adjourned to September 22, to allow for exchange of processes between parties.
The anti-graft agency had on August 17, secured an order of temporary forfeiture of N664,475,246.60 and $137,680.11 found in account belonging to the serving Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Clement Illoh Onubuogo and 15 other persons suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.
The court also ordered that two properties in Delta state alleged to have been acquired and developed with proceeds of unlawful activity to wit :stealing should also in the interim be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The order of the court was sequel to an action in rem with affidavit of urgency in support of the motion ex -parte filed and argued before the court by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa.
In an affidavit in support of the motion ex -parte sworn to by an operative of the EFCC Huleji Abraham Tukura, the deponent averred that the special task force of the anti graft agency received an intelligence report against Clement Illoh Onubuogo that funds meant for various SURE-P programs under the Federal ministry of Labour and Employment were stolen, diverted and converted to personal use.
The said intelligence report was analyzed and found worthy of investigation, the investigation of the commission revealed that Clement Illoh was a serving Permanent Secretary, Federal ministry of Labour and Employment who was saddled with the responsibility of the supervision of SURE-P Viz SURE-P Technical and Vocational Educational Training and Community Service Women and youth empowerment programs among others under his ministry.
The Federal Government of Nigeria released over N10b which he superintendent. Out of this amount, the commission traced total sum of N876,981,225.05 to him which he converted to his personal use, from the fictitious and fraudulent contract to his company Clement & Bob Associate which he used to fraudulently enrich himself to the tune of N94,829,845.60 ,funds which were meant for the SURE-P programme. He also used his position to receive kick back /gratification from various contracts under the SURE -P program using his staff and front companies.
From kickbacks received he made cash payment into Clement & Bob Associate account number 1013449507 using fictitious names to the tune of N81,110,250.00.,while he received the total sum of $600,000 USD proceed of unlawful activity which he converted to N103,200,000.00 and paid into the Same company account.
Mr Takura averred further that, Clement Illoh awarded a contract to one of his companies Ojeagu Farms Limited where he is a Director and sole signatory account of the company, in respect of this company, he converted the sum of N90million to his personal gain and made further cash deposits totaling N9,968,000.00 into the account using fictitious names.
He received another sum of N37,802,000.00 which was diverted through Agoha Joseph Emeka a staff of Federal ministry of Labour and Employment for his personal gain.
Through Ojeagu Global service, a company owned by his family converted the sum of N159,770,383.45.and,through undeclared Access bank and undisclosed accounts fraudulently concealed the sum of N123,000,000.00.