A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the forfeiture of various sums of money estimated at over N1billion allegedly owned by a government official, Titus Okunrinboye Thompson and a former Director of Communications at the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Haruna Wando Mohammed.
Details of the money include about N550million allegedly found in two Zenith Bank accounts belonging to Thompson, who the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claimed acted as a front for the immediate past Head of Service (HOS) of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita.
The other chunk constituting $287,500 and N291,367,914.35 was said to have been recovered from Mohammed, in relation to a surveillance contract awarded sometime in 2012 by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to a private firm, RTCOM Limited. The contract was said to have been code named – Falcon Eye (FE).
While the court ordered that the money recovered from Mohammed be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government, the one being held in Thompson’s two Zenith Bank accounts is only temporarily forfeited.
On Thursday, Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo granted the order of permanent forfeiture in the Mohammed case after EFCC’s lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, argued the motion he filed to that effect.
The two orders granted in the case, marked:FHC/ABJ/CS/694/2019 are:
*A final order of forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria of the sum of N291,367,914.35 recovered from one Haruna W. Mohammed in the course of investigation to be transferred to Recovered Funds Account domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
*A final order of forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria of the sum of US$287,500.00 recovered from one Haruna W. Mohammed in the course of investigation and which has been transferred to the Recovered Funds Account domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
In the case involving Thompson, Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo could not hear a similar motion filed by Abubakar.
She noted that although the court had earlier in July 2019 ordered the interim forfeiture of the money and directed that the EFCC publish the order in a national daily, the respondent (Thompson) was absent in court and was not represented.
Abubakar said the EFCC complied with the order and caused a publication to be made in a national daily on July 8, 2019.
He noted that since the publication was made, neither Thompson nor Oyo-Ita (who he is suspected to have acted for) responded to the order, by making claim for the money, a development Abubakar said, informed his motion for final forfeiture.
Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo then adjourned until October 7, 2019 for the hearing of the motion for final forfeiture and ordered that hearing notice be issued to Thompson in relation to the next hearing date, scheduled for the hearing of the motion for perManent forfeiture.
The EFCC said, in court documents, sighted by The Nation, that Thompson was an accountant in the Federal Ministry of Special Duties, when Oyo-Ita served as the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary.
It was alleged that the money traced to Thompson’s two accounts in Zenith Bank (one containing over N500m, while the other has over N50m) were public funds allegedly siphoned through a project called – Group Life Insurance – which was ostensibly meant for some staff of the ministry.
In the case of Mohammed, the EFCC stated, in a court document, “that it received intelligence, sometime in 2017 “in respect of cases of defence contract/procurement fraud, gratification and money laundering against the former National Security Adviser (NSA), alleging conspiracy and criminal misappropriation of public funds involving the huge sum of money.
“Preliminary investigation conducted by the Commission revealed that Ambassador Haruna Mohammed Wando was the Director of Communications at the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
“Our investigation of the case further revealed that sometimes in 2012, the ONSA contemplated putting in place an ICT driven surveillance and security platform to check illegal activities within the Nigerian territorial waters. This was to enhance the security of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The project was meant to cover Nigeria’s coastline stretching 420 nautical miles from East to West including the territorial sea and the EEZ of the country.
“In order to actualize this dream, a committee was set up to carry out an assessment of the country’s maritime security architecture and assets vis-à-vis the desirability and viability of the proposed project.
“The Committee which mandate includes sourcing for relevant and reputable companies for the project was headed by the then Director of Communications of (ONSA), the said Amb. Haruna W. Mohammed.
“Between April and June 2012, the committee invited relevant reputable companies to forward technical and financial proposals; companies which submitted proposal to that effect were however not awarded the said contract.
“A company called RTCOM Limited which was not invited to submit proposal in that regard eventually ended up getting the job which job was code named Falcon Eye (FE).
“Stamford International Limited (SIL) was considered as the proffered bidder and was first awarded the contract on 11th April, 2013. They applied for a mobilization fee of US$5.0 million which was not given to them, while on 10th June 2013 RTCOM Limited applied for the same amount and for the same purpose.
“On 30th April, 2014 ONSA signed a contract with RTCOM Limited for the implementation of the Falcon Eye (FF) Project at a contract sum of $459,369,500.
“40 per cent of the contract sum, amounting to $183,758,585 was paid by ONSA to RTCOM Limited on the 29th May 2014.
“Investigation has linked RTCOM limited with bribery and corruption in the build up to the award and execution of the FE project which explains why the shady deals went through.
“Further to the foregoing, investigation has established that RTCOM Limited has paid the sum of about US$1.0 million (in structured periodic cash payments) to the said Amb. Haruna W. Mohammed while he served as director at ONSA and Chairman of the Committee on FE as bribe and/or kickback.
“Amb. Haruna W. Mohammed admitted in his extra judicial statement to have converted some of the USD received from RTCOM to naira and deposited it in his Eco Bank account number 0129640537 while 0129640544 had some of the USD balances.
“Further to the foregoing, a total sum of N291,367,914.00 and USD 287,500.00 have since been refunded voluntarily by the suspect, Amb. Haruna W. Mohammed to the EFCC.
“The sum of USD 287,500.00 was transferred to the EFCC recovery account through the OAGF FGN Asset Recovery US Account.
“The sum of N291,367,914.00 was refunded by suspect through several bank drafts submitted by the suspect to the EFCC through the OAGF FGN Asset Recovery US Account.”