ECONOMIC and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials have seized the Abuja mansion of former defence minister Senator Musiliu Obanikoro’s wife after investigations revealed that it may have been bought with the proceeds of corruption.
Former minister of state for defence Senator Obanikoro is accused of using state funds to try and influence the outcome of the Ekiti State governorship elections in 2014 and under interrogation confessed to handing cash to the Governor Ayo Fayose to pay security operatives. He admitted giving Governor Fayose a sum of N2.3bn (£6m) in the run-up to the state’s governorship elections.
After his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the 2015 elections, Senator Obanikoro fled to the US but after the EFCC indicted him, he returned to Nigeria voluntarily. Following his return, the former minister immediately returned N100m to the EFCC with a promise to return another N480m and has been paying this in instalments ever since.
Yesterday, an Abuja high court ordered that his wife Alhaja Moroophat Obanikoro, forfeit her property pending the outcome of investigations into her husband and children. In addition, the court rejected a prayer asking the EFCC to pay her the sum of N200m for violating her fundamental human rights.
Alhaji Obanikoro has, however, headed for the Appeal Court to challenge the court judgment. As part of investigations into the $2.1bn arms scam, involving the Office of the National Security Adviser, the EFCC had traced the transfer of about N4.7bn to the Diamond Bank account of Sylvan McNamara, a company allegedly owned by Senator Obanikoro’s two sons Gbolahan and Babajide.
Out of the N4.7bn, Senator Obanikoro allegedly gave N3.880bn to Governor Fayose and Senator Iyiola Omisore in July 2014, when they were PDP governorship candidates in Ekiti and Osun states respectively. Part of the money allegedly given to Governor Fayose was said to have been converted to $5.377m and handed to him at Spotless Hotel, Ado-Ekiti, in the presence of the then Ekiti State PDP Secretary Tope Aluko and other party stalwarts.
Senator Obanikoro allegedly kept over N600m of the cash for himself. Subsequently, the EFCC seized a house in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State belonging to Gbolahan and Babajide Obanikoro and a property located at 44 Mamman Kotangora Crescent, Katampke Extension, Abuja, belonging to their mother.
However, Senator Obanikoro’s wife argued that she bought the property over seven years before the alleged arms scam took place. She said the EFCC had no right to punish her for any crime allegedly committed by her husband and urged the court to award her N200m in damages.
In his ruling, the Justice Halilu said he could not stop the EFCC from doing its work, adding that all Nigerians must unite in the fight against corruption. He added that he refused the application because it is most unmeritorious and specially packaged to deceive the court.