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Court orders final forfeiture of assets recovered from ex-JTF commander

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the final forfeiture of six parcels of land, N293 million in cash, and 30,000 units of MTN shares recovered from retired Major General Emmanuel Atewe, a former Commander of the Military Joint Task Force (MJTF), Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta. The assets were seized following allegations of fraud and conspiracy involving Atewe, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi, Kime Engozu, and Josephine Otuaga.

According to reports, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned the defendants over the alleged diversion of N8.5 billion from the military Operation Pulo Shield in the Niger Delta. The EFCC, in an application before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, requested that the assets be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government, and the judge granted the order for the final forfeiture.

The EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), urged the judge to grant the application under Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006 and Section 44 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended). The seized assets included 50 hectares of farmland in Abuja, a piece of land in Bayelsa State, and one hectare of land in Kuje District, Abuja. The other properties identified were Plot No. CP10, Sector Centre B Layout, Kuje, Abuja; Plot MF62 Outer Northern Expressway Cadastral Zone, Abuja; Plot No. 1228 Jahi, Abuja; and four hectares of land designated as Plot No. CP6386 and Plot No. , Sabon Lugbe, Abuja.

Moreover, an investigating officer of the EFCC, Adamu Yusuf, stated that Atewe had purchased the 30,000 units of MTN shares for N170,350,000. The temporary forfeiture of the assets was ordered by Justice Mohammed Liman in March 2020 following an ex-parte application by Oyedepo. The lawyer had claimed that the assets sought to be forfeited formed part of the proceeds of N8.5 billion allegedly diverted from the military operation between September 5, 2014, and May 20, 2015.

The order for the final forfeiture of the assets by the court has brought to an end a long-drawn legal battle over allegations of fraud and conspiracy involving Atewe and his co-defendants. The order serves as a reminder that corrupt practices, irrespective of who is involved, will not be tolerated in Nigeria

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