By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has ordered the final forfeiture of the sum of $919, 202 to the federal government being proceeds from sale of a seized vessel.
The court specifically ordered Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, Port Harcourt branch to remit the money into the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) federal government recovery account with number: 0020122561028 domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
A copy of the order of the court to that effect obtained at the Federal High Court Headquarters in Abuja, indicated that the money was lawfully kept in an interest yielding account with number: 0041443133 with Union Bank in Port Harcourt since 2014, when the seized vessel was sold on the order of court following the refusal of the owner of the vessel to show up for ownership claim.
A group of bunkerers had in 2014 abandoned the vessel loaded with stolen crude oil so as to escape the wrath of law in the economic sabotage related offences law.
Following their refusal to show up to claim the vessel, a federal high court had ordered it to be sold off and its proceeds to be kept in an interest yielding account pending when the suspected bunkerers will show up.
However, no one has come up to lay claim to ownership of the vessel prompting the federal government to apply for forfeiture of the proceeds to it.
Justice Ibrahim Sani, while issuing the order following an application by the federal government, directed that the money be paid by Union Bank into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and that an affidavit of compliance must also be filed.
The ICPC acting on behalf of the federal government through its lawyer, Dr Agada Akogwu, had filed a motion on notice praying the court for an order directing the final forfeiture of the amount realized in the sales of the seized vessel to the federal government.
Respondents in the motion on notice are the Chief Registrar, Federal High Court of Nigeria, Deputy Chief Registrar, Federal High Court of Nigeria, Port Harcourt Division and Branch Manager, Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, Station road, Port Harcourt.
The respondents through their counsel, Mr Dumwa David Ayuba did not oppose the application for forfeiture of the huge sum.
In his ruling, Justice Sani ordered that the amount be immediately remitted to the federal government.
However, contrary to the claim by ICPC that the money was unlawfully kept in the interest yielding account, Justice Sani found that the money was actually directed to be lodged in the interest yielding account by an order of the Federal High Court issued in 2014, to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court in Port Harcourt division.
The federal government had in November last year, applied for and got an interim forfeiture order of the said money pending when anyone would show interest and cause why the money should not be forfeited finally to the government.
However, following the failure of anyone to show up and lay claim to the property the federal government applied for final forfeiture in the suit with number: FHC/PH/MISC/284/2020.
The order for final forfeiture was then granted as prayed on February 19, 2021.
Bunkerers Forfeit $919, 202 Proceeds of Vessel Sale to FG
By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja