The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on Saturday said it would study the court ruling ordering a temporary forfeiture of $153.3 million purportedly belonging to former Nigerian petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, before taking a decision.
Justice Muslim Hassan of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, on Friday, ordered a seizure of the money which was stolen from the NNPC, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and stashed in three Nigerian banks, in US Dollars and Naira.
“It was a court ruling, and we have not studied the proceedings; when we do that we’ll know our response,” Ndu Ughamadu, NNPC’s spokesperson, told Sources.
According to the EFCC, out of the $153.3 million, N23.4 billion was kept in Sterling Bank Plc, N9.08 billion in First Bank Plc, and $5 million in Access Bank Plc.
In his ruling on Friday, Mr. Hassan gave Sterling Bank and any other interested parties 14 days to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the monies, failure of which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Nigerian government.
The judge made the order in favour of the EFCC which appeared before him with an ex parte application seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds.
According to the Commission, in December 2014, Mrs. Alison-Madueke invited the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, to her office where they hatched the plan to move $153,310,000 out of the NNPC for the minister.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke, according to Mr. Awolusi, instructed Mr. Okonkwo to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.
Mr. Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal leading to the movement of $153,310,000 from NNPC to Fidelity Bank.
He said that two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, helped Mrs. Alison-Madueke to move the cash from NNPC, Abuja, to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos.
In 2012, Mr. Otti, alongside Steve Oronsaye, hugged headlines for attempting to discredit the report of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force which exposed the monumental corruption in Nigeria’s petroleum industry.
While he was serving as a member of the task force, Mr. Otti was appointed into the board of the NNPC by Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
Mr. Awolusi said in a desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, Mr. Okonkwo, upon receiving it, instructed the Country Head of Fidelity Bank, Martin Izuogbe, to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Lanre Adesanya, to keep.
The sum of $5 million was kept with the Managing Director Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe.
He said the remaining $40 million was taken in cash to the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank, Dauda Lawal, to keep.
Phone calls to the spokespersons of Sterling Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc did not go through.
But Babatunde Lasaki, the Spokesperson of First Bank Plc, said the bank was not directly involved in the transaction.
“We’ve said this thing before now that the transaction regarding Diezani and Mr. (Dauda) Lawal was in his personal capacity, and the money was not a First Bank transaction,” Mr. Lasaki told Sources.
“We said that and we still maintain that.”
The EFCC arrested Mr. Lawal, Executive Director, Public Sector at First Bank, in May last year for allegedly helping Mrs. Alison-Madueke to launder $25 million.
Mr. Lawal had denied the allegations against him, maintaining that his relationship with the former minister was purely a professional one.
“This allegation is malicious and without substance in any material particular.”