High Court Orders Former Naval Chief Ezeoba To Forfeit N1.8b To Federal Government

A Federal High Court in Lagos in Nigeria’s southwest zone has ruled that a limited liability company, Acquila Leasing Limited, should temporarily forfeit N1.825 billion found in the company’s account to the Federal Government.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which obtained the forfeiture order on behalf of the Federal Government, alleged that the sum was part of a total of N2.387 billion diverted from the coffers of the Nigerian Navy by a former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Dele Ezeoba (retired). Mr. Ezeoba headed the Nigerian Navy between 2012 and 2014.

An EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, filed an ex-parte application for temporary forfeiture of the funds before Justice Muslim Hassan. The application invoked Section 17 of Nigeria’s Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14 of 2006 as well as Section 44(2)(k) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.

In the filing, Mr. Oyedepo urged the court to urgently grant the forfeiture order in the interest of justice. Justice Hassan granted the order and gave 14 days for Chuka Onwuchekwa and his company, Acquila Leasing Limited,as well as any other party interested in the money to appear before him to give reasons why the fund should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Justice Hassan adjourned the case till March 29, 2017 for any interested parties to appear before him.

The EFCC’s application listed Onwuchekwa and Acquila Leasing Limited as the first and second respondents. An affidavit of urgency sworn to by an operative of the EFCC, Adamu Usman, said Mr. Ezeoba was investigated following an intelligence report. He disclosed that the anti-grant agency analyzed information and determined further investigation was warranted.

According to Mr. Usman, information obtained by the EFCC from Mr. Ezeoba on June 21, 2016 revealed that the N1.825 billion was proceeds of crime “fraudulently diverted from the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Ezeoba.”

The EFCC alleged that Mr. Dele Joseph Ezeoba used the name of the first respondent, Acquila Leasing Limited, to open a fraudulent account in order to disguise funds he laundered from the Navy. The commission added that, in a desperate bid to further disguise and conceal the illicit source of the funds, Mr. Ezeoba entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to buy shares of Acquila Leasing Limited from Mr. Onwuchekwa, the company’s managing director.

According to the EFCC, “the said shares of Acquila Leasing Limited [were] worth N2.378, 000,000.” The commission remarked that, out of the N2.378 billionembezzled by Mr. Ezeoba, only N1.825 billion had so far been recovered via drafts in favor of the Federal Government of Nigeria.