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Nigerian Court Seizes $700,000, Land, and Shares from Former Military Official

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LAGOS, Nigeria — A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the final forfeiture of N293 million (approximately $700,000), six parcels of land, and 30,000 MTN shares recovered from a former Commander of the Military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe (Rtd).

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on Friday, May 5, 2023, made the order for the permanent forfeiture of the assets to the Federal Government following an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

EFCC lead counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), brought the application before the court for the final forfeiture of the assets without conviction pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006, and Section 44 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).

Since 2016, the EFCC has been prosecuting Atewe alongside former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi; Kime Engozu; and Josephine Otuaga.

They were all accused of conspiring to divert the sum of N8.5 billion for the military Operation Pulo Shield in the Niger Delta.

In March 2020, Justice Mohammed Liman had ordered the interim forfeiture of the assets following an ex parte application by the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo.

Oyedepo told the court that the assets sought to be forfeited were part of the proceeds of N8.5 billion which Atewe allegedly diverted from the military operation between September 5, 2014, and May 20, 2015.

The forfeited landed properties were identified in various locations in Abuja and Bayelsa State. An investigating officer of the EFCC, Adamu Yusuf, said Atewe purchased the 30,000 MTN shares for N170,350,000.

The EFCC counsel argued that it would be in the interest of justice for the court to order the temporary forfeiture of the assets. After listening to him, Justice Liman granted the prayers and ordered that the temporary forfeiture order be published in a national newspaper.

The judge then adjourned the case until April 20, 2023, for anyone interested in the assets to appear before him to show reasons why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

Gen. Atewe contested the forfeiture order, but after listening to all the arguments on the matter, Justice Aneke dismissed the objections and granted the order for the final forfeiture of the assets to the Federal Government.

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