LAGOS – The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday, March 27, 2023, granted an order of interim forfeiture of seven properties, three vehicles and $50,000 cash from Prof. Uche Chigozie Edwin, the National President of the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN).
The order was made by Justice Tijjani Ringim, sequel to an application filed and argued by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Rotimi told the judge that the EFCC traced the properties to Edwin and that it reasonably suspected that the defendant acquired them with the proceeds of an unlawful activity.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria also sought an order of “directing the publication in any widely circulated national newspaper, the interim order under reliefs herein to enable any interested party appear before this honourable court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture of the properties sought to be forfeited should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The properties are a four-bedroom detached duplex at House 13, Road 2, Setraco, Gwarimpa II Estate, Abuja, FCT, purchased at the sum of N120million.
*All the property at Plot 284a, Road 7, No.11 Okeikpe Street, Aladinma Housing Estate, Owerri, Imo State.
*A plot of land at Mkporo Isiojabi, at Umuofor Eziobo, Eziokele Autonomous Community, Owerri West, Imo State.
*A plot of land known as Okwu-Odajuruba (Njikatu), at Umunbiakwa, Umudukwo, Umuagwo in Ohaji/Egbema LGA of Imo State.
*A plot of land known as Ishiawom Farmland, at Umunebo Obokwu Obinze, Owerri West LGA of Imo State.
*Three Toyota Hilux vehicles worth N34,010,500.
*$50,000 cash in favour of EFCC Recovery Fund Account.
Oyedepo however persuaded the court that it has the statutory powers under the provisions of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006 to grant the reliefs.
Granting the prayers, Justice Ringim held: “I have perused the motion and affidavit with the written address just adopted by learned Silk for the Applicant.
“I’m satisfied with all the averment in the affidavit. Consequently prayers one and two are hereby granted.”
Justice Ringim adjourned till May 9, 2023 for report of compliance.
It would be recalled that, on March 16, 2023, the anti-graft agency arraigned Edwin and three of his firms – Visionary Integrated Consulting Limited, NEMAD Associates Limited and Revamp Global Enterprise – before Justice Nicholas Oweibo on an 11-count charge of conspiracy, retention and conversion of funds to the tune of N1, 473,367,046.04.
The EFCC’s Lagos Zonal Command alleged that the money belonged to Maize Growers and Marketers, adding that the defendants committed the offences “sometime in 2021 in Lagos”
One of the counts on the charge claimed they “conspired to use the sum of N1, 473,367,046.04 property of the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit: fraud; and you thereby committed an offence, contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
Edwin pleaded “not guilty” to the 11 counts and was granted N1million bail.
The case was however adjourned till June 27, 2023, for commencement of the trial.