Appeal Court Okays Final Forfeiture of N1.4bn Paris Club Refund
The Court of Appeal in Lagos on Friday approved the request of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the final forfeiture of N1.4billion which a firm, Melrose General Services Limited, obtained from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) through alleged false claims.
Melrose is allegedly linked to outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, whose two aides- Gbenga Makanjuola and Kolawole Shittu are being prosecuted by the EFCC in respect of the matter.
Justice Cecilia Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos had on April 27, 2018 ordered the final forfeiture of the said N1.4billion to the Federal Government.
Dissatisfied with the verdict of Justice Olatoregun, Melrose General Services approached the appellate court for redress, asking it to set aside the pronouncement of the lower court.
But in its judgement on the matter on Friday, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Melrose (the appellant) and resolved the four contentious issues in favour of the EFCC (the first respondent).
The appellate court further held that Melrose appeal lacked merit and ordered the firm to pay 100,000 cost to the EFCC.
The appellate court also held that Melrose could not show that the said funds were lawfully earned by it.
It added that section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, 2006, which the EFCC relied on to seek for the forfeiture of the said funds was constitutional.
According to the Court of Appeal, Melrose was not denied fair hearing in the matter.
Justice of the Court of Appeal (JCA), Justice Tijjani Abubakar wrote the lead judgement, Justice E. Tobi delivered the judgment while Justice O. A. Obaseki-Adejumo concurred with the verdict.
Lawyer to the Melrose, Mr Olawale Akoni (SAN) argued the appeal while the lawyer to the EFCC, Mr Ekele Iheanacho, appeared for the Commission.
The EFCC had claimed that Melrose obtained N3.5bn from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum by making false claims.
Listed as defendants in the final forfeiture application filed before the Federal High Court were Melrose General Services Limited, WASP Networks Limited and Thebe Wellness Services.
The firms were accused of impersonating a consortium of consulting firms engaged by the NGF for the “verification, reconciliation and recovery of over-deductions on Paris and London Club Loans on the accounts of states and local governments between 1995 and 2002.”
But the EFCC insisted that the original firms engaged by the Governors’ Forum were GSCL Consulting and Bizplus Consulting Services Limited.