Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Friday, March 2, 2018, deferred judgment in an application filled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking the final forfeiture of a sum of N1,222, 384,857.84 recovered from the account of Melrose General Services Company Limited.
Justice Olatoregun had, on Friday, October 13, 2017, ordered an interim forfeiture of the money, following a motion ex parte filed by the EFCC.
Also, Justice Olatoregun had ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N220,000,000.00 recovered from two other companies namely Wasp Networks Limited and Thebe Wellness Services.
In granting the EFCC prayers, Justice Olatoregun had ordered anyone interested in the money to appear before the court within 14 days to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge had also directed the Commission to publish in any newspaper for anyone who is interested in the money to appear before the court to show cause why the order for the final forfeiture should not be granted.
At today’s sitting, Olawale Akoni, SAN, counsel to Melrose Services Limited, moved a motion seeking to set aside an earlier order given by the court for the interim forfeiture of the sum of N1,222,384,857.84( One Billion Two Hundred and Twenty- two Million, Three hundred and Eighty- four Thousand and Eight Hundred and Fifty-seven Naira Eighty-four Kobo) to the Federal Government.
Akoni informed the court that the money belongs to Melrose Services Limited and was paid into its account on December 14,2016.
He further stated that it was the payment for the reconciliation of accounts of the Nigeria Governor Forum,NGF, it did for Biz Plus.
However, counsel to the prosecution, Ekele Iheanacho, argued that it was conspiracy with others to obtain the money from the NGF. He also stated that a letter was sent from the EFCC and a response was received from the NGF that the job was carried out by a consortium of consultants known as GSCL Biz Plus.
Iheanacho said the job was submitted to the NGF on August 31, 2016, while the report was forwarded as the final reconciliation of the over deduction on foreign loan account of the states to the Ministry of Finance.
He said the NGF consequently wrote to the Ministry of Finance to pay them the agreed 5% consultancy fees that all states’ governors had signed .
The prosecution counsel added that upon approval by the Presidency, the Ministry of Finance wrote to the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay the sum of $86,546,526.65 and N 18,635,427,311.54 to the NGF.
He added: “In the cause of investigation, the EFCC recovered a bundle of document in possession of Melrose Services Limited, where it had earlier claimed it did the job.
“The said document was a re-copy of the work of Biz Plus. it was lifted out paragraph by paragraph from the work of Biz plus. But Melrose signed it as its own job .
“This document was never presented to the court.
“However, it was after the Interim order was made that Melrose presented another document to the court instead of the one recovered.”
Iheanacho also told the court that after the order for the interim forfeiture was granted and published, one Prince Godwin Udemaduka, through his lawyer, laid claim of interest to the money.
“Udemaduka claimed to have done a consultancy job for Zamfara State Government and has not been paid.
“He is not entitled to the money, but he has aligned with others to steal themoney.
” His claim is to Zamfara State Government and the claim before the court is not for debt recovery. The money in question doesn’t belong to only Zamfara State government.
“He is, therefore, not entitled to any claim,” he further argued.
Consequently, Justice deferred judgement on the final forfeiture of the money to April 24, 2018.