The Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, August 17, 2017 ordered a retiring Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to temporarily forfeit to the Federal Government the sums of N664, 475,246.6 and $137,680.11.
The respondent, Clement Onubuogo, allegedly diverted the sums from the Sure-P programme launched by former president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Apart from the funds, Onubuogo was also ordered to temporarily forfeit two properties, which he allegedly acquired with funds diverted from the youth empowerment scheme.
One of the properties is his house known as Clement Illoh’s Mansion located at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba, Delta State, while the other, a hotel, is said to be located at No. 19, Madue Nwofor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State.
Vacation judge, Abdulaziz Anka, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds and the assets following an ex parte application moved before him by a counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.
In the ex parte application, the EFCC said the funds and the properties were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of stealing and bribery.
In an eight-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, an investigator of the EFCC, Huleji Tukura, said the anti-graft agency uncovered how the respondent diverted N876.9 million out of the over N10 billion released by the Jonathan administration for the scheme.
Tukura said the EFCC also discovered that he, who was saddled with the responsibility of supervising the Sure-P Technical and Vocational Educational Training, Community Service, Women and Youth Empowerment Programmes, abused his office by collecting kickbacks from contractors.
He was also accused of fraudulently awarding contracts to himself using front companies and some workers serving under him.
For instance, the EFCC investigator said: “Through a fictitious contract, the respondent along with Mr. John Tsokwa and Mr. Salisu Kura conspired and procured the sum of N29,168,654 out of which the sum of N10, 500,000 was retained by the respondent.”
Tukura added that the respondent received the sum of N37, 802,000, which were diverted through Agoha Joseph Emeka, a member of staff of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment for his personal gain.
“Through Ojeagu Global Service Limited, a company owned by his family, with an account domiciled in Zenith Bank, the respondent converted the sum of N159,770,383.45, which he subsequently laundered.”
Onubuogo was also accused of laundering N182,529,000 which, according to the EFCC, was found in his Access Bank and First Bank accounts that he failed to declare.
The EFCC told Justice Anka that it had already recovered a total of N129,826,452 from Onubuogo’s co-conspirators such as Salisu Kura, Rabiu Said, Tonye Isokeiri, Buhari Dahiru, John Kanku, Ahmed Muazu, Muktar Sufian, Udoh Nnamdi, Umar Mashi, Salogu Karo, Usman Bello aand Ahmed Makki.
After granting the interim forfeiture of the funds and assets, Justice Anka directed the EFCC to publish the forfeiture orders in a national newspaper.
He adjourned till September 6, 2017 for anyone interested in the funds and the assets to appear before him to convince the court why the temporary forfeiture orders should not be made permanent.
By Chinyere Obia