Former Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, may be paid billions of naira, the value of the assets seized from him after his conviction for money laundering.
President Goodluck Jonathan had granted Mr. Alamieyeseigha a presidential pardon, rendering the former Bayelsa State governor a freeman.
While Mr. Alamieyeseigha was convicted, properties he acquired from his money laundering regime were seized, and most of them sold by the federal government.
After his pardon, since his rights and privileges will be restored according to Nigerian law, it is uncertain if he will retrieve the items or the value of the items he corruptly acquired from the Nigerian government.
Some lawyers say the presidential pardon bestowed on Mr. Alamieyeseigha grants him fresh rights to the items he acquired with wealth he stole. All, however, condemned the pardon granted the fugitive, who is still wanted in the U.K. for jumping bail after he was arrested for money laundering.
Though both the Federal Government and Mr. Alamieyeseigha are yet to speak on the forfeited property, lawyers said the former Bayelsa Governor has a case to demand the return of his forfeited property and may infact go to court for same.
Should he achieve success in court, and since the property have largely been disposed off, the federal government may pay billions of naira in lieu of the property.
He should get the property
Activist lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said the precedence of an Appeal Court ruling on what pardon means, implies Mr. Alamieyeseigha can ask for his asset to be returned and actually get them.
“This is the implication of a full pardon,” he said.
Mr. Falana cited the case of Olu Falae versus Obasanjo, where Mr. Falae challenged the eligibility of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to contest for presidential election in 1999 saying the former military head of state was not granted full pardon by the then military junta.
“According to the Court of Appeal in the case of Falae V Obj, it means that a man who has been pardoned is a new man (homo novus) in the eye of the law. The conviction and sentence are wiped out and he is entitled to the full restoration of his rights and privileges as well as the return of his seized assets,” Mr. Falana said.
While challenging the result of the presidential 1999 election, Mr. Falae had argued that Mr. Obasanjo did not get “full pardon” from Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar after his conviction for involvement in the 1995 coup plot and therefore is not qualified to contest the election.
But the Court of Appeal while dismissing Mr. Falae’s argument had ruled that:
“The word used under Section 161 (1) and Exhibit 11 is “pardon”, and in this context, pardon may be with or without any conditions. It is clear from Exhibit 11 that the pardon granted to the 1st Respondent was not made subject to any conditions. In my view, under the Nigerian law, a “pardon” and ”full pardon” have no distinction. A pardon is an act of grace by the appropriate authority which mitigates or obliterates the punishment the law demands for the offence, and restores the rights and the privileges forfeited on account of the offence. The effect of a pardon is to make the offender, a new man (novus homo), to acquit him of all corporal penalties and forfeiture annexed to the offence pardoned. I am of the view, that by virtue of the pardon contained in Exhibit 11, the disqualification of the 1st Respondent was to suffer because of his conviction, has been wiped out.”
Lagos lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, also argued in his article that based on the Appeal Court’s ruling, which was not upturned by any superior court, Mr. Alamieyeseigha can demand the return of his asset. He said the ruling of the court suggests that Mr. Alamieyeseigha is free to make a claim for the property or their value.
The other side of the argument
Some other lawyers, however, disagree with this interpretation.
“The forfeitures were made before the pardon was granted, so what happens if the properties forfeited to the Federal government have been sold to a third party,” asked activist lawyer, Bamidele Aturu.
“When you forfeit something, it is what you forfeit that you will get back. Those goods have been forfeited to the Federal Government there is no way this act of pardon can release that. So I don’t know by what legal abragadabra that anybody will say that the forfeited goods should be handed over to him unless they want to perpetrate serious fraud on Nigerian people. Those properties have been forfeited and forfeited for life,” he added.
Another lawyer, Charles Musa, said forfeited asset cannot be returned to their former owners irrespective of a presidential pardon. But he said Mr. Alamieyeseigha can contest this in court.
“If you have suffered any punishment, the punishment remains,” Mr. Musa said.
“It’s left for his lawyers to argue that. He can go to court but I doubt if he will succeed. What of those who served time, can they get the time back?” he questioned.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which successfully prosecuted Mr. Alamieyeseigha would not comment on its possible response should the ex-governor demand his seized
The commission’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to calls or text messages sent to him on the subject.
The presidency has aggressively defended President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to pardon Mr. Alamieyeseigha, while Nigerians and the international community have condemned the pardon granted the former governor.
The National Council of States headed by Mr. Jonathan, had last week Tuesday, pardoned Mr. Alamieyeseigha and seven others.
Below are the asset seized from Mr. Alamieyeseigha and which he could claim back.
Assets fraudulently acquired by Alamieyeseigha forfeited to the state
a. Account number 10659347 with Barclays Bank Plc, United Kingdom with a balance of GBP203, 753.34 as at 15th February 2005;
b. Account number 3239940 with UBS Warburg AG, 1 Curzon Street, London, W1J 5HB with a balance of $2.5 million as at September 2005; account number 338931 in the name of FALCON INC. with UBS Warburg AG, 1 Curzon Street, London, W1J 5HB;
c. Account number 7341553/7341596 FOR us dollars with Barclays Bank Plc at International Banking Unit, 88 Dighemis Akritas Avenue 1644, Nicosla, Cyprus; account number 7341588 for GB pounds Sterling with Barclays Bank Plc at International Banking Unit, 88 Dighemis Akrltas Avenue 1644, Nicosia, Cyprus ;
d. Bank account number 5005220454-7 in Denmark with JYSKE Bank at Bseterbrogate, 9, DK-1780, Copeenhagen V with a balance of at $2.5 million;
e. Bank account number 005482562491 with Bank of America United States of America in the name of Peter Aklamleyeseigh with a balance of $160,000.00
a. Property known as Water Gardens, London W2 2DG which I bought at GBP1.75 million in the name of my company known as Solomon & Peters Ltd;
b. Property at 14 Mapesbury Road, London, NW2 4JB which you bought at GBP1.4 million;
c. Property at 14 Jubilee Heights, School Uphill, London, NW2 2UQ, which you bought at GBP241,000;
d. Property at No. 68-70, Regent’s Road, London, N3 bought at 3 million Pounds Sterling.
Chelsea Hotel Abuja worth of N2 Billion for which N1.5 Billion was paid;
Two block of luxury flats at Plot 26 Bashir Dalhatu Close, Abacha Estate, Ikoyi worth of N45;
c. Acquired a property at John Kadiya Street, off Jose Marti Crescent, Asokoro, Abuja worth N350 million;
An Estate of six luxury duplexes at No. 1 Community, Road, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos worth N200 million
One Billion Naira worth of Shares acquired in defunct Bond bank
• Plot 916 & 917, Wuse II District, Abuja
• Plot 7, Cadastral Zone A6, Maitama Abuja
• Plot1267, Amazon Road, Abuja
• Plot 3375, cadastral Zone A6, Abuja
• Plot 1372-1374, Cadastral Zone A7, Wuse II, Abuja
• Plot 1281, cadastral Zone A4, Asokoro, Abuja
a. A personal bank account with Barclays Bank Plc which was opened on 5 January 2004 and the balance stood at £203,753.34 as at 15th February 2005.
b. A personal bank account with HSBC, London, but the account was closed sometimes in March 2003 while all the money in the account was transferred to Santolina Investment Corporation’s account with National Westminster Bank, London.
c. Personal account with Bond Bank in Lagos which was opened sometimes in January 2004 and the balance stood at N105-14.942.61 as at 16th September 2005 and another personal account in Oceanic Bank Plc (The Salo Trust) in the names of Enitonbrapa Alamieyeseigha, Embelakpo Alamieyeseigha, Ebipadei Alamieyeseigha, Oyamuyefa Alamieyeseigha, Saleaka Alamieyeseigha and Margaret Alamieyeseigha.
d. Account with Bank of America in the name of Peter Alamieyeseigha with account number 0054 8256 2491 which balance stood at $1, 600,000.00 as at August 2003.
• 247, Water Gardens, London, W2 2DG, which is the registered
address of Solomon & Peters Ltd. This property was purchased
for £1.75 million on 20/8/2003
• 14, Mapesbury Road, London, NW2 4JB. This property was
purchased for £1.4 million on 6/7/2001.
• Flat 202, Jubilee Heights, Shoot uphill, London, NW2 3LJQ,
purchased for the sum of £241,000.00 on 28/10/99.
• 68-70, Regent’s Park Road, London, N3 which was purchased in
July 2002 for the sum of £3 million.
All the properties listed above have a combined value in excess of £S 381million
• A property at V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa worth over £1 million.
• Royal Albatross Properties 67 a company registered in September 2005 in Cape Town, South Africa.
• A property in 504, Pleasant Drive, King Farm Estate, Maryland USA, and another one in 15859, Aurora Crest Drive, Whither, California, USA, 906