Court orders final forfeiture of N116m for constituency projects

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, ordered a final forfeiture of N116 million recovered from Hamza Barau by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC).

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Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the order after counsel to the EFCC, Ekele Iheanacho, moved a motion on notice filed to that effect.

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The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Barau (1st defendant) is the managing  director of Hamshakin Ventures Limited, the company, which was allegedly used to moved the funds from the coffers of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

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Barau, who was said the be the only signatory to the company’s bank account domiciled at Access Bank Plc, was allegedly awarded five contracts by SMEDAN as Gombe, Benue and Jigawa Constituencies Projects.

The contracts include provision of strategic empowerment programme in Akko, Gombe State; conduct of pilot post seasonal intervention programme in Vandeikya/Konshisha, Benue; supply of motorcycles in Kiyawa, Jigawa, among others.

In an affidavit deposed to by Orji Chukwuma, an EFCC’s investigating officer, the operative said in respect of the contracts, SMEDAN paid over N174 million into the Access Bank Account of the company between Nov. 21, 2014 and Feb. 18, 2016.

He said the contracts were awarded in Sept. 15, 2014, based on the award letters of contracts attached as exhibits.

Chukwuma said that in spite of the payment made, no contract was executed by the company. He said said the certificate of job completions were issued to the firm by members of the House of Representatives and SMEDAN officials failed to carry out due verification before payments were made.

According to him, the 2nd respondent (company) converted the funds paid by SMEDAN for the personal benefit of 1st respondent (Barau) and some former House of Representatives members.

He alleged that Herman Hembe, Benjamin Aboho, Udende Emmanuel, Orker-Jev who were members of the House of Representatives and whose constituencies were affected received N9 million each from the company.

“Two other former Honourable members of the House of Representatives namely; Hon. Abubakar Mahmud Wambai and Hon. Anthony Madawatte also received part of the constituency funds from the respondents.

“The transfer of the funds referred to in paragraph 4 (g) above was facilitated through the Diamond Bank (now Access Bank) Account No. 0041899190 operated by the erstwhile Director-General of the SMEDAN who also received some benefits therefrom,” he averred.

Chukwuma said in the course of the investigation, Barau admitted not executing the five contracts and refunded the total sum of N116 million in favour of EFCC Recovery Fund Account.

When the matter was called, EFCC lawyer, Iheanacho, informed that he had a motion on notice for final forfriture of the sum of N116 million naira to the Federal Government.

He said the application dated Nov 15, 2019 was filed same day, and it sought an order of the court to finally forfeit the money to the Federal Government.

He said the money was recovered by the EFCC as funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

Iheanacho, who informed that the court had earlier made an interim order forfeiting the funds to the Federal Government, said the order of the court was published in The Nation Newspaper.

According to him, no cause has been shown why the funds under the interim forfriture should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.

Mustapher Suleiman  counsel for defendants, said they were not opposed to the grant of the application.Ruling, Justice Mohammed said having listened to counsel for the parties. “the applicant’s motion is granted as prayed.“

The sum of N116 million recovered by the applicant is hereby forfeited to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”(NAN)

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