Professor Uche Chigozie Edwin, national president of the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), has been ordered to forfeit seven homes, three vehicles, and $50,000 in cash on a temporary basis.
The order was issued by Judge Tijjani Ringim in response to an application that Senior Counsel of Nigeria Rotimi Oyedepo, who represents the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), filed and argued for.
Rotimi informed the judge in his Exparte appeal that the EFCC had linked the properties to Edwin and had a good faith suspicion that the defendant had purchased them with the proceeds of illegal activities.
The EFFC attorney also requested that the court issue an order directing the publication of the interim forfeiture in any widely read national newspaper, allowing any interested party to appear before the judge and provide justification within 14 days as to why the Federal Government of Nigeria should not receive the final forfeiture order of the properties.
The properties are a four-bedroom detached duplex at House 13, Road 2, Setraco at Gwarinpa II Estate, Abuja, purchased at the sum of N120million, all the property at Plot 284a, Road 7, No.11 Okeikpe Street, Aladinma Housing Estate, Owerri, Imo State and a plot of land at Mkporo Isiojabi, at Umuofor Eziobo, Eziokele Autonomous Community, Owerri West, Imo State.
Additional items include three Toyota Hilux cars valued N34,010,500, $50,000 cash, and two plots of property known as Ishiawom Farmland and Okwu-Odajuruba (Njikatu) in Umunebo Obokwu Obinze, Owerri West LGA of Imo State.
Oyedepo persuaded the court that Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006 gave it the legal authority to award the reliefs.
Judge Ringim stated, “I have read the motion and affidavit with the written address recently adopted by learned Silk for the Applicant,” after hearing from the attorneys.
“All of the averments in the affidavit satisfy me. As a result, prayers one and two are now accepted.
The court then postponed until May 9, 2023, for the compliance report.
An 11-count charge
On March 16, the anti-graft agency arraigned Edwin and three of his firms – Visionary Integrated Consulting Limited, NEMAD Associates Limited and Revamp Global Enterprise – before Justice Nicholas Oweibo on an 11-count charge of conspiracy, retention and conversion of funds to the tune of N1, 473,367,046.04.
The EFCC’s Lagos Zonal Command had alleged that the money belonged to maize growers and marketers, adding that the defendants committed the offences “sometime in 2021 in Lagos”
One of the counts on the charge claimed they “conspired to use the sum of N1, 473,367,046.04 property of the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit: fraud; and you thereby committed an offence, contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
Edwin was charged with 11 counts, entered a “not guilty” plea, and was released on bail in the amount of N1 million.
The case’s trial was then postponed until June 27.