The Federal High Court, Lagos on Wednesday ordered the interim forfeiture of the sum of N449.750 million found in an abandoned Bureau de Change shop in Victoria Island by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The order was made by Justice Rilawan Aikawa following an ex-parte application taken before him by the anti-graft agency.
An investigator with the EFCC, Mr. Moses Awolusi, said in the affidavit filed before the judge that the shop numbered LS64, located on at Legico Shopping Plaza, at Victoria Island, Lagos had not been opened for two years.
Awolusi claimed that the money was found on April 7, 2017 in several “Ghana Must Go” sacks, adding that the EFCC recovered the money after investigating intelligence information received on one Mohammed Tauheed.
According to him, Tauheed allegedly conspired with the owner of the abandoned shop to launder the money.
Awolusi said that Tauheed had earlier been brought to the EFCC office by the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Legico Shopping Plaza, Mr. Sulaiman Daba and Alhaji Ishaq Ayandiran, respectively.
He said that during the visit, Tauheed told the EFCC that he received the money in cash from a serving government official, whose name was not disclosed for security reasons.
He said Tauheed, in the presence of his lawyer, agreed to return the money to the Federal Government, which is the rightful owner of the funds strongly suspected to the proceeds of criminal activities of the unnamed serving government official.
The EFCC said that it would be in the interest of justice for the court to order the temporary forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
Consequently, Justice Aikawa ordered that the money should be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
He directed the EFCC to advertise the order in a national newspaper and gave 14 days for any interested party to appear in court to give reasons why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge adjourned the matter till May 19, 2017.
Meanwhile, the Presidency says it will strengthen the whistleblower policy following breakthroughs in the war against corruption via recent uncovering of unaccounted cash by security agencies.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said that the enthusiastic response of Nigerians to the whistleblower policy has boosted the tempo of the anti-corruption crusade of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He told State House Correspondents yesterday that the government was considering bringing the policy under the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PCAC) or any other body to imbue the process with a strategic national purpose.