Absence of judge stalls Olejeme’s alleged fraud trial

Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme

By Andrew Orolua

The trial of the former Chairperson of the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme could not hold on Monday due to the absence of trial judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Following the absence of the judge, the court clerk rescheduled the matter for December 2 for continuation of trial, after he explained that the judge was on leave.

The court had on July 1granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) an order of interim forfeiture that enable the anti -graft agency seized 46 separate land property, including houses and parcels of land, suspected to belong to Olejeme.

The said 46 property are located in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo States and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. Justice Taiwo granted the order while ruling on a motion ex-parte brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who claimed in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/538/2020 that the said property were illegitimately acquired.

The court had while granting the EFCC’s request of interim forfeiture ordered the commission through its counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, to publish the order in a national daily listing the property to enable anyone who has interest in the affected properties to show cause within 14 days why the assets should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

He thereafter, adjourned the matter to July 27 as the return date.

Though, the matter could not hold on July 27, but when it eventually came up on July 29, the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) came forward to claim ownership of the 46 properties that were seized from Olejeme.

Counsel who appeared on behalf of the NSITF management, Okereke Ezechi brought a motion urging the court to pass the forfeited properties to the NSITF.

According to the counsel, the NSITF was the principal victim of the alleged crimes purportedly committed by Olejeme, who served as the chairman of the agency’s management board from 2009 to 2015.

The lawyer stated that the properties suspected to have been acquired through proceeds of crime, were allegedly acquired with funds stolen from the organisation.

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“The property listed by the applicant in this suit for an order of forfeiture were acquired by Ngozi Olejeme during the period she served as chairperson of the management board of the NSITF and the monies that she used in acquiring the said property were funds belonging to the NSITF,” the affidavit read in part.

It alleged that all legitimate entitlements or benefits of Ms. Olejeme for the period she served as chairman of the management board of the agency could not have purchased her all the property listed in the suit.

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