Ikoyi N13bn: Don’t Pay Whistle-Blower Yet, Lawyer Tells FG
A Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, has urged the Federal Government not to spend yet the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 (about N13bn in all) recovered from Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The lawyer said he had appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court in Lagos, which ordered the permanent forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
He said spending the money while the appeal is still pending would be “overreaching” the court.
In a letter dated December 4, which he wrote to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Ogungbeje opposed the Federal Government’s move to pay a percentage of the N13bn to the whistle-blower who gave intelligence information leading to the recovery of the money.
An acknowledged copy of the letter sighted by our correspondent read partly, “We write to bring to your attention the above-mentioned pending appeal on the N13bn forfeiture order and pursuant to the publication credited to your good office, published in The PUNCH newspapers of Thursday, November 30, 2017.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the appeal, which raised novel jurisdictional issues, is still pending before the Court of Appeal, Lagos and has not been decided one way or the other. Hence, there are encumbrances in respect of the Ikoyi N13bn.
“We urge you to await the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, by halting every step or action capable of overreaching the Court of Appeal or rendering the outcome of its findings nugatory. The said appeal has a high degree of success.
“It is settled in law that when a matter is before a court of law, all parties must stay action to await the decision of the court of law.”
According to the lawyer, this is the first time in the nation’s jurisprudence when properties and money would be forfeited “without investigation, prosecution and conviction.”
“We have invited the Court of Appeal, Lagos, to give a pronouncement in this regard as their own way of supporting the anti-corruption crusade.”
The Minister of Finance had reportedly said last week that a total of N421.33m was ready to be paid to whistle-blowers for the November batch.
Those to be paid, the minister said, included the whistle-blower for the Ikoyi N13bn.
Acting on intelligence information from an unnamed whistle-blower, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had stormed the Ikoyi house in April, recovering $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 were discovered stashed away in iron cabinets and “Ghana-must-go” bags.
The anti-graft agency later obtained a court order permanently forfeiting the funds to the Federal Government.
Justice Muslim Hassan, who gave the forfeiture order on June 6, 2017, had, in his ruling, dismissed an application by Ogungbeje objecting the forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
The judge, who noted that Ogungbeje was not a party in the suit filed by the EFCC for the forfeiture of the money, described the lawyer as a meddlesome interloper and a busybody, adding that his application was strange to law