Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N4, 413,110 million, belonging to an alleged Brazilian based Nigerian drug baron, Okoewo Ikechukwu to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Justice Aneke ordered the seizure of the money after granting an ex-parte applications filed by a lawyer from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Juliana Iroabuchi.
Ikechukwu had already pleaded guilty to an amended five counts charge of conspiracy, unlawful importation of 48 kilograms of cocaine, which he ingested and his failure to fully disclose his assets in the asset declaration form issued to him by the NDLEA.
The anti-narcotic agency had told the court that the defendant was arrested with the drug, on January 17, 2022, while returning from Brazil through Addis-Ababa, via the Ethiopian Airlines.
The NDLEA had further told the court that he conspired with Obi Nonso and Okoro Steven Ameachi to commit the offences.
Justice Aneke will on July 5, 2022, sentence the defendant.
While moving the application for the forfeiture of the money yesterday, Iroabuchi informed the court that the application was brought under Sections 44 (2)(K) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as (Amended); Sections 31(A) and (C); 3; 34 and 36 of NDLEA Act Cap. N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and under the Court’s inherent jurisdiction.
She stated that the NDLEA was urging the court for an order of interim forfeiture to the Federal Government of the money in Access Bank Plc Account Number 0024517899, in the name of the alleged drug baron’s sister which is the defendant’s account.
But the defence counsel, Uche Okoronkwo expressed surprise at the ex-parte application, pointing out that the business of the day was for the prosecutor to review the facts of the charges against his clients. However, Justice Aneke overruled him and granted the application.
NDLEA in an affidavit deposed to by one of the litigation officers, Kareem Olayinka, stated that the drug baron was arrested, on January 17, 2022, for unlawful importation of 48 grammes of cocaine and conspiracy to import same, through Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
Olayinka claimed that while they were investigating the case, his agency traced the bank accounts listed in the motion ex-parte to the drug baron, which warehoused proceeds of his illegal drug trafficking and processing.
The NDLEA also stated that the investigation revealed that the drug baron solely operated the account but used his sister’s name, Oko Emilia Chioma, as the account name, to prevent the detection of his illegal drug trafficking.
NDLEA further stated that the facts of the case also revealed that the defendant’s drug business partner in Brazil by the name of Okoro Steven Ameachi paid into Oko Emilia Chioma’s Access Bank Plc account number 0024517899, the sum N7,057,155.25 million, for him to deliver the hard drug both in Addis Ababa and Lagos.
NDLEA also stated that since the date of the defendant’s arrest till date, he has withdrawn from the said bank account, the total sum of N2,644,017.03 million, out of the N7, 057,155.25 million. And the current total amount left in the said account as of Friday, June 17, 2022, is N4,413,110.03 million only.
The anti-narcotic agency stated that the order of the court is necessary to prevent the disposal or dissipation of the said bank accounts by the defendant during and pending the conclusion of his prosecution.