By G9ija

The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has secured the final forfeiture of $919,202.07 kept in an old generation bank by some officials of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The commission had earlier secured an interim order in November 2020, after the discovery of the money that was kept in an interest-yielding account of the bank since 2014.

Respondents in the case were the Chief and Deputy Registrars of the court and a local branch of the Union Bank of Nigeria, but they did not contest the matter.

Our reporter learnt that the fund was the proceeds of sale of a confiscated vessel in a Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/446/2011.

ICPC source said the commission stumbled on the fund while investigating a petition, and swiftly move to seize it as ‘an unlawfully acquired property.

The Federal Government through its counsel, Dr. Agada Akogwu applied for and got an interim forfeiture order of the said sum last year, pending when anyone would show interest and cause why the property should not be forfeited finally to the Federal Government.

A claim for the final forfeiture was made in Suit No. FHC/PH/MISC/284/2020 with the Chief Registrar, Federal High Court of Nigeria, Deputy Chief Registrar, Federal High Court Port Harcourt and Branch Manager, Union Bank, Station Road as respondents.

Supporting the case for the forfeiture at the weekend, Counsel to the respondents, Dumwe David Ayuba Esq. prayed the Court to make the order of final forfeiture in line with Section 332(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

He, however, clarified that his clients neither ran the account nor kept the money as was insinuated by the ICPC, maintaining that the commission should not embark in act capable of tarnishing their image.

He said the office of the first and second respondents are by extension a department of the court and should not be seen as descending into the arena of conflict by initiating or filing a forfeiture application.

He urged the court to discountenance the applicant’s deposition that the respondents did not initiate a final forfeiture proceeding.

Ayuba also prayed the Court to restrain the ICPC from presenting the office of the respondents in bad light and also order it to offer public apology to the respondents in a news.

He maintained that the allegation of illegal operation of an account is baseless, speculative and a calculated attempt to tarnish the office and person of the respondents who only obeyed the order of the court as stated in Section 332 (1) and (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and that they did not at any point keep the said sum unlawfully.

Ruling on the suit at the weekend, Hon. Justice I.M Sani ordered that the sum of $919, 202.07 be forfeited to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That the sum of $919,202,07, being the sum confiscated, valued and sold vessel lawfully kept in an interest yielding account No: 0041443133, Union Bank, Station Road, Port Harcourt vide a court order is hereby forfeited to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That the third respondent is hereby directed to pay the said sum into the Federal Government Treasury Single Account (TSA) and file an affidavit of compliance for the Court’s record,” he ordered.