Court Orders Interim Forfeiture of Suspected Drug Baron’s Funds To FG
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Lagos Federal High Court, today, ordered the interim forfeiture of the sum of N4, 413,110.03, million, belonging to an alleged drug baron, Okoewo Ikechukwu, a returnee from Brazil, to the Federal government of Nigeria.
Justice Aneke ordered the forfeiture of the said sum while granting an Exparte motion filed and argued for the order by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) prosecutor, Juliana Imaobong Iroabuchi.
The drug baron was arrested with the drug, on January 17, 2022, while returning from Brazil through Ethiopia, Addis-Ababa, via Ethiopian Airline. And he had pleaded guilty to an amended five counts charge of conspiracy, Unlawful importation of 48 kilograms of Cocaine which he ingested and failure to give full disclosure of his assets in Asset declaration form issued to him by the NDLEA.
NDLEA had told the court that he conspired with Obi Nonso and Okoro Steven Ameachi to commit the offences.
Justice Aneke has fixed July 5, for NDLEA to review the facts of the charges against the drug baron and sentence him accordingly.
On the order for the forfeiture of the drug fund, the prosecutor told the court that the application was brought pursuant to 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 jurisdisction.
The NDLEA has asked for an order of Interim forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria all the sum of money in Access Bank Plc Account Number 0024517899, in the name of the drug baron’s sister which is the Defendant’s account.
But counsel to alleged drug baron, Barrister Uche Okoronkwo of Minerva Legal, expressed shocked by the NDLEA Exparte application for the forfeiture of his client’s fund, saying that the business of the day was for the prosecutor to review the facts of the charges against his clients.
However, Justice Aneke after hearing the prosecutor’s submission on the Exparte application, granted same accordingly.
NDLEA in an affidavit deposed to by one of litigation officer, Olayinka Kareem, stated that the drug baron was arrested, on January 17, 2022 for unlawful importation of 48 grammes of Cocaine and conspiracy import same, through Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. And that while 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 investigation revealed that the drug baron solely operated Access Bank Plc account number 0024517899 but used his sister’s name, Oko Emilia Chioma, as the account name, to prevent detection of his illegal drug trafficking.
NDLEA further stated that facts of the case also revealed that the defendant’s drug business partner in Brazil by name Okoro Steven Ameachi, actually, paid into Oko Emilia Chioma’s Access Bank Plc account number 0024517899, the sum ( N7,057,155.25 million, to him to deliver the hard drug both in Addis Ababa and Lagos Nigeria.
NDLEA also stated that since from 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 that current total amount left in the said account as at 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. And that the order being sought from the Court is merely reservatory.