Ownerless Property: Court Orders Absolute Forfeiture of N449million Found In BDC Shop in V/I, Lagos

Abandoned Cash in BDC shop in Victoria Island, LagosThe legal framework in Nigeria makes provisions for interim or absolute forfeitures of ownerless properties to any persons that found such property unless and until any persons show forth to lay claim to the property according to criminal laws of Nigeria.

Today Friday 19 May 2017 at the Federal High Court of Nigeria (FHC), Lagos Judicial Division, holden in Lagos, the serenity and decorum of the Court room sent Victoria Island/ikoyi sea wave to all and sundry that the Honourable Court will be sitting to give order in respect of the controversial and mind bugging abandoned money discovered in a BDC shop in Victoria Island, Lagos.

The presiding Justice of the Court over the matter is the Hon. Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court (FHC) gave a ruling and ordered absolute (permanent) forfeiture of the sum of N449,597,000 found in an abandoned Bureau de Change shop in Victoria Island of Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The Hon. Justice Rilwan Aikawa gave an ordered that the funds should be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria as no one came forward to claim it.

The premise of the Court order was based on the Motion on Notice filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) praying the Court for order of absolute (permanent) forfeiture of the abandoned money.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s counsel Motion on Notice was supported by an affidavit sworn to by Moses Awolusi, an investigator officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), deposed to and state as follows:

That operatives of the anti-graft agency Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) found the N449,597,000 on April 7, 2017 in several “Ghana Must Go” sacks in a shop numbered LS64, located on at Legico Shopping Plaza, at Victoria island, Lagos;

That the anti-graft agency EFCC found out that the shop had not been opened for two years;

That the anti-graft agency Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recovered the money after investigating intelligence information received on Mohammed Tauheed;

That Mohammed Tauheed allegedly conspired with the owner of the abandoned shop to launder the money;

That Mohammed Tauheed had earlier been invited and brought to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) office by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Legico Shopping Plaza, Mr. Sulaiman Daba and Alhaji Ishaq Ayandiran, respectively;

That Mohammed Tauheed told the anti-graft agency Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that he received the money in cash from a serving government official, whose name he refused to disclose “for security reasons”;

That Mohammed Tauheed, in the presence of his lawyer, later agreed to return the money to the Federal Government of Nigeria, which is the rightful owner of the funds strongly suspected to be proceeds of criminal activities of the unnamed serving government official.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s counsel in his Written Addressed urged the Honourable Court to grant the prayers as prayed in the Motion on Notice and that it would be in the interest of justice for the Honourable Court to order the absolute (permanent) forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

In cause of the earlier trial of the proceedings on the 19 April, the Court ordered the interim (temporary) forfeiture of the money and adjourned till Friday for one Mohammed Tauheed, who was joined as Respondent in the suit, and any other interested party to appear before the Court to give reasons why the money should be finally forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Idris Mohammed, Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) addressed the Court and informed the Court that the interim (temporary) order of forfeiture of 19 April 2017 had been advertised in the newspaper on May 11 2017 as ordered by the Court, so as to bring the case to the notice of Mohammed Tauheed the joined Respondent and any interested party.

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s Counsel informed the Court that apart from the newspaper publication, Mohammed Tauheed was also served with the Motion on Notice and all other court processes in the matter.

EFCC’s Counsel prayed the Hon. Court to order the absolute (permanent) forfeiture of the money since neither Mohammed Tauheed nor anyone else came forward to claim it.

The presiding Hon. Justice Rilwan Aikawa, in his ruling granted the order as prayed on the surface of the Motion on Notice’s application and written address.

The Hon. Justice of the Court held as follows:

“This Court ordered, among others, the Respondent (Mohammed Tauheed) and any other interested party to show cause, within 14 days, why the interim forfeiture of N449,597,000 should not be made final. As far as my record shows, neither the Respondent nor any other interested party has filed any affidavit or any other process to show cause why the interim order should not be made final.

“In the instant case, the Respondent has, additionally, not filed any process in response to the Motion on Notice. In the circumstances, I have no option but to grant the application as prayed.

“Accordingly, I hereby ordered that the sum of N449,597,000 found in possession of the Respondent, which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of an unlawful activity, be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.”

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