19th November, 2012
Nnamdi Felix / Abuja
More drama played out on Monday before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja as the court presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole adjourned till Friday, 23rd November, to rule on an application brought by a Lagos state based technician, Mr. Olalekan Bayode, who wants the court to join him as an intervener in the controversial $15 million bribe money allegedly given by former Delta state governor, Mr. James Ibori, to former chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
The anti graft agency had last July approached the court with an application seeking the forfeiture of the alleged bribe money, which had been in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria, to the Federal Government.
No sooner had the court granted a temporary forfeiture of the money to the Nigerian government, with an order for any interested party to come forth and show cause why the money should not be finally forfeited than persons of very questionable character surreptitiously appeared to lay claim to the slush fund.
An unknown, self acclaimed oil magnate, Mr. Chibuike Achigbu, emerged from no where and stirred the hornet nest when he caused a team of ten senior lawyers, including senior advocates of Nigeria, to file an affidavit wherein he claimed ownership of the money.
He that he raised the money and gave it to Senator Andy Uba, who was then the Domestic Aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for the purpose of financing the Peoples Democratic Party during the 2007 general elections.
In the affidavit, Achigbu stated that he first sought legal advice on whether he could raise money to support the PDP and its candidates throughout the federation for the purpose of winning the 2007 general elections.
According to the him, by April 2007 when the election had drawn near, he had raised money in excess of N2 billion after which he realized that such donations could only be made and accepted through a financial institution.
He further stated that in order to legitimately apply the funds, that he approached Andy Uba to contact relevant agencies of government to investigate and certify that the funds were raised honestly and in good faith with a view to donating same to finance PDP.
This attempt drew criticisms from the public forcing the “oil magnate” to quickly withdraw his odious application.
As soon as Achigbu withdrew his application, a lawyer, Mr. Timipa Okponipere, who claimed to be representing the Delta state government also applied to be joined in the matter. He requested that the money be returned to Delta state and alleged that the money was removed from the treasury of the state and rightly belonged to the people of the state.
Delta state government, which until then had not come forth to lay claim to the money was quick to disown the lawyer with the state’s Attorney General, Mr. Ajuya, a senior advocate of Nigeria, categorically stating that the state government did not brief the lawyer to represent it in the matter.
With that, the lawyer disappeared from the scene leaving the state to take its destiny in its hand in the quest to return the money to the state.
Just as arguments were to be taken between the anti graft agency and Delta state government over who owns the money, Mr. Olalekan Bayode who claims to be a fridge and air conditioners technician at Alagbado, a suburb in Lagos state, also brought an application through a United Kingdom based Nigerian legal practitioner, Mr. John Olufemi Aina, asking that he be appointed by the court as an intervener to manage the fund for the benefit of Nigerians and averred that he did not want the fund to go the way of previously recovered proceeds of crime which cannot be accounted for by the recipients.
Both the anti graft agency represented by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, a senior advocate of Nigeri, and Delta state government opposed Mr. Bayode’s application.
Mr. Ajuya, in his opposition argued that Mr. Bayode has not shown any reason for him to be joined in the matter. He contended that the court’s order made in July was for any interested party to come and lay claims to the money but that Mr. Bayode’s application was an offer to be allowed to manage the $15 million on behalf of Nigerians. He posited that the management of the money or who will manage it efficiently are not the business of the court but the ownership. He categorically stated that the money belongs to Delta state and that the state can manage it efficiently and therefore urged the court to refuse the application.
On his part, Mr. Jacobs pointed out that for Mr. Bayode to be joined as an intervener, that he needs to show that he is an interested party to the subject matter of the case and has a legal right that is being threatened by the case as well as show that the court cannot effectively decide the matter without him.
He contended that the applicant had not show any interest in the matter other than to say the he is a Nigerian citizen and beneficial owner of the unclaimed money.
He further reminded the court that its order was for any one who has interest to come forward under section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, before the court makes an order of final forfeiture of the money.
“The person envisaged by that section is the genuine owner of the money in question and not a busy body such as Mr. Olalekan Bayode who claims to repair Air conditioners and Fridges at Alogbado in Lagos state. He is not asking for the money to be forfeited to him as the owner and this clearly makes him a stranger in the matter” he added.
He subsequently urged the court to refuse the application.