A suit seeking the recovery and forfeiture of over N70trillion, looted funds in the hands of a few Nigerians has been adjourned until March 6, 2023 by Honourable Justice Peter Odo Lifu of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Honourable Justice presided over the case with the case number FHC/L/CS/968/2021 on March 7, 2022 adjourned it to March 31, 2022 for a decision before the final adjournment until March 2023.
The money said to be stashed away in 29 bank accounts mainly in First Bank is enough to fund Nigeria’s budget for three years, with a left over. The proposed budget for 2023 is N20.5 trillion, meaning that the N70 trillion hidden by some Nigerians could effectively finance the national budget for three years.
The efforts of private investigator Muhammad T. Ismail and his team to recover the money through the office of Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) have hit a brick wall because some powerful vested interests have intervened to thwart the case.
The investigator bemoaned the fact that certain vested interests in the Presidency, Central Bank of Nigeria, and First Bank have been thwarting all efforts to recover the alleged loot.
Muhammad T. Ismail, a private investigator and his team were able to identify fraudulent banks accounts where trillions of illicit funds belonging to the Federal Government were domiciled. He needed a legal instrument to recover these illicit funds to the Federal Government’s coffer.
He therefore approached Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) and instructed him to write and request for a letter of mandate/instruction from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and also from the Minister of Finance, Budget and Economic Planning of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on his behalf, for the recovery of the illicit funds hidden in some secret bank accounts in Nigeria. These funds belong to the Federal Government of Nigeria. This letter from Muhammad T. Ismail was received and acknowledged on the 6th of January, 2021 by the Head of Department of Civil Litigation in the Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers).
As instructed and being convinced of the facts available, Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) wrote to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Twenty-nine (29) bank accounts where a combined sum of over seventy trillion naira (N70trillion), belonging to the Federal Government was hidden were identified.
On the 21st of June, 2021, The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice approved and issued the letter of instruction to recover the illicit funds traced to specified accounts if individuals to Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Chambers). The letter of instruction also listed the twenty-nine (29) bank accounts that domiciled in seventeen (17) banks in Nigeria.
As expected, Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) ran to the Federal High Court 9, Ikoyi Lagos where most of the Bank Headquarters are domiciled. The case was between (1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria (2). The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as Claimants/Applications against the seventeen banks as Defendants.
On the 9th of August, 2021, Hon. Justice T.G. Ringim gave several orders including an Interim Order of Forfeiture. All the Banks were served accordingly. The Banks were also to provide Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) all documents and information relating to the listed accounts.
Shockingly, the Banks could not provide information regarding the ownership of twenty-seven (27) out of the twenty-nine (29) accounts. That automatically meant that all the funds in the twenty-seven (27) accounts should be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, even as no one has come to claim ownership of the account. But this has not happened till date. The hands of the courts have been tied down.
Three (3) accounts stand out. The affected banks were able to provide documents relating to the three (3) accounts.
- Zenith Bank Plc,
Account Name: NNPC (REM ACC/PRIVATE)
Accounts Number: 1012280444
Account Balance: 32Billion Naira
Currency type: Naira
- First Bank Plc,
Account Name: NNPC/NAOC IPP SECURITY
Accounts Number: 2006367288
Account Balance: 147Billion Naira
Currency type: Naira
- First Bank Plc,
Account Name: NNPC/NAOC IPP SECURITY
Accounts Number: 2005942905
Account Balance: $299,613.72 USD
Currency type: USD DOLLAR
It was reported that Zenith Bank Plc said 32billion Naira in Account Number 1012280444 with Account Name NNPC (REM ACC/PRIVATE) has been swept into NNPC Remittance Account (Coastal PRD Sales) Account Number 1010654418, from where it was eventually transferred to CBN/TSA Account number 3000004989 with the CBN on the 7th of January, 2016. The information was confirmed not to be true.
Recall that the CBN directives for all balances/receipts due to the Federal Government of its Agencies to be paid into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) ended on or before September 15, 2015. Zenith Bank Plc. has not been able to give explanation as to the reason Account number 1012280444 and 1010654418 were still operational after September15, 2015.
Another shocking revelation is that Account number 1012280444 with Zenith Bank Plc has five (5) BVNs as follows: 22173355534, 22376914983, 22193440291, 22367697055, and 22235680190. Zenith Bank Plc. has not been able to supply statement of accounts for the Account numbers: 1012280444 and 1010654418 from inception to date. They cannot provide photograph pictures of the five (5) BVN owners.
Zenith Bank Plc. stated that Account number 1012280441 (another account being investigated with N32billion lodgment), belongs to Mrs. Okoro Comfort with cellular number 08130734041. However, Mrs. Okoro Comfort, through her counsel denied any knowledge of the said account or any other account with Zenith Bank Plc. Mrs. Okoro Comfort admitted that the cellular number is 08130734041 and her BVN is 222417—49 different from the BVN 2236767055 attached to the account number 1012280441.
BVN 2236767055, belongs to Mr. Okam Eze Ezenna, who receives transaction alert from Account number 1012280441 with two cellular numbers 08139383487 and 08130734041, which belongs to Mrs. Okoro Comfort. Account number 1012280441 with Zenith Bank Plc. has Thirty-two million naira (N32million), with no identifiable owner coming claim it.
The question is what is holding back the hand of justice to declare total forfeiture of all these stolen funds to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
It is expected that Muhammad T. Ismail and Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) should have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). At the beginning of the assignment, Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) allotted a space to Muhammad T. Ismail and his team in his office to do the leg work and provide the needed information for Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) to do the legal part. Surprisingly, Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Chambers) has not shown any interest in signing the MOU with his client, Muhammad T. Ismail.
On the 7th of September, 2021 Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) wrote to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice to provide Bank Account details to receive recovered funds to the tune of One hundred and seventy-nine billion naira (N179billion) and $299,613.72 USD from three (3) out of the twenty-nine (29) accounts.
On the 8th of September, 2021, Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) also wrote to the Central Bank of Nigeria, complaining against the uncooperative attitude and disobedience of court orders by First Bank Plc. and Zenith Bank Plc. Proof of service of the court orders was attached to the letters to the CBN.
It was after the request for bank details was sent to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minster for Justice and a complaint against First Bank Plc. and Zenith Bank Plc was sent to CBN that trouble started. Some persons who are in position to drive the process for the recovery of the illicit funds became threatened and they had to act fast to stop the process.
In their response on the 27th of September, 2021 CBN stated that they cannot act because they were not served any court order and that necessary steps should be taken to effect service on the CBN to enable them respond to the request. The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, although received the letter of request for account details to receive recovered funds, never responded and the request not met.
In March 2022, Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) invited Mohammad T. Ismail and told him that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice had terminated the recovery exercise but he could not show any document or correspondence from the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice to that effect. To make matters worse, Mohammad T. Ismail and his team were stopped from accessing the office and prevented from retrieving details of information in the office.
On one hand, Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) claimed that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice had seized from pursuing the recovery of the trillions of naira for the Federal Government of Nigeria. However, he sent another SAN to represent him in court on the 7th of March, 2022 in respect of the same matter that he told Muhammad T. Ismail that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice had seized to pursue.
Hon. Justice P. O. Lifu of FHC, Ikoyi, Lagos presided on the 7th of March 2022 and adjourned to the 31st of March 2022 for ruling. Since then, it has been adjournment scheduled for 6th of March 2023.
Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) is now foot-dragging in pursuing the case as it should be. Mohammad T. Ismail is also not enjoying the cooperation of the Attorney-General of the Federal and Minster for Justice as it was in the beginning. The judge only announces long adjournment to frustrate the case. The Banks too are acting above the law. CBN is not worried that trillions of naira which can service our national debt was being stolen.
Several correspondences had been sent to Ndarani (SAN) & Co (Solace Law Chambers) to release copies of all the correspondences relating to the recovery exercise but he hasn’t obliged. He has also refused to sign the MOU with his client, Muhammed T. Ismail who owns the recovery exercise and hired him to work for him. He is no longer showing seriousness in the recovery pursuit.
It can only be concluded that some persons are congregating to share over N70trillion, belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria. We have a responsibility and a sacred duty to let the world know the truth and those who are sabotaging this nation and causing everyone to crawl while they ride on horseback.