The Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday ordered the temporary forfeiture of N664,475,246 and $137,680 allegedly diverted from the previous administration’s Sure-P funds to the Nigerian government.
The suspect, Clement Onubuogo, a serving Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, was also ordered to temporarily forfeit two buildings, which he allegedly acquired with funds diverted from the youth empowerment scheme.
One of the property is his house, known as Clement Illoh’s Mansion, located at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba, Delta State, while the other, a hotel, is said to be located at No. 19, Madue Nwofor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State.
Justice Abdulaziz Anka ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds and the asset following an ex-parte application by counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Rotimi Oyedepo.
In the ex-parte application, the EFCC said the funds and the properties were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of theft and bribery.
In an eight-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the application, an investigator of the EFCC, Huleji Tukura, said the anti-graft agency uncovered how Mr. Onubuogo diverted N876.9 million out of the over N10 billion released by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for the scheme.
Mr. Tukura said the EFCC also discovered that Mr. Onubuogo, who was saddled with the responsibility of supervising the Sure-P Technical and Vocational Educational Training, Community Service, Women and Youth Empowerment Programmes, abused his office by collecting kickbacks from contractors.
The suspect was also accused of fraudulently awarding contracts to himself using front companies and some workers serving under him.
According to the EFCC investigator, “Through a fictitious contract, the respondent (Onubuogo) along with Mr. John Tsokwa and Mr. Salisu Kura conspired and procured the sum of N29,168,654 out of which the sum of N10,500,000 was retained by the respondent.”
“The respondent (Onubuogo) received the sum of N37,802,000, which was diverted through Agoha Joseph Emeka, a member of staff of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment for his personal gain.
“Through Ojeagu Global Service Limited, a company owned by his family, with an account domiciled in Zenith Bank, the respondent converted the sum of N159,770,383, which he subsequently laundered.”
Mr. Onubuogo was also accused of laundering N182,529,000, which, according to the EFCC, was found in his Access Bank and First Bank accounts that he failed to declare.
The EFCC told Justice Anka that it had already recovered a total of N129,826,452 from Mr. Onubuogo’s co-conspirators, namely “Salisu Kura, Rabiu Said, Tonye Isokeiri, Buhari Dahiru, John Kanku, Ahmed Muazu, Muktar Sufian, Udoh Nnamdi, Umar Mashi, Salogu Karo, Usman Bello and Ahmed Makki.”
After granting the interim forfeiture of the funds and asset on Thursday, Justice Anka directed the EFCC to publish he forfeiture orders in a national newspaper.
He adjourned till September 6 for anyone interested in the funds and the asset to appear before him to convince the court why the temporary forfeiture orders should not be made permanent.