United States District Court, District of Columbia
D. BATES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Godson Nnaka is once again before the Court seeking to
challenge the forfeiture of assets in this proceeding. This
time, he has filed a renewed motion to vacate the default
judgment entered against certain defendant assets on August
6, 2014 and the final judgment entered on December 17, 2015.
Mot. to Vacate [ECF No. 237]; see Aug. 6, 2014 Mem.
Op. & Order [ECF No. 65]; Dec. 17, 2015 Mem. Op. &
Order [ECF No. 101]. He asserts that the default and final
judgments were “based on the frauds committed on this
Court by the plaintiff and its Attorneys.” Oct. 24,
2017 Mot. to Vacate [ECF No. 237-1] at 2. Among other things,
he accuses United States officials of colluding with
Nigeria's Attorney General to prevent Nnaka from
representing Nigeria in this action, including by submitting
to the Court a letter from the Attorney General denying that
Nnaka had authority to represent Nigeria. Id. at 4.
He also asks the Court for a preliminary injunction
preventing the government from distributing any of the
forfeited assets until the resolution of his motion to vacate
and of any relevant appeal. Mot. for Prelim. Inj. [ECF No.
239] at 1-2. Because the Court finds that Nnaka does not have
standing to challenge the forfeiture of the defendant assets,
both of his motions will be denied.
not Nnaka's first attempt to intervene in the proceedings
of this case. He filed claims to the defendant assets three
times, and all three of the claims were struck by the Court.
See July 3, 2014 Mem. Op. & Order [ECF No. 54]
at 13. Nnaka's first two claims to the funds, purportedly
filed on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, were
stricken because they were not properly verified in
accordance with Rule G(5) of the Supplemental Rules for
Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id.;
see Apr. 17, 2014 Claim [ECF No. 10-1]; June 12,
2014 Claim [ECF 48-1]. The Court struck Nnaka's third
claim, filed on behalf of himself, because it was not filed
by an attorney admitted to the Court and because Nnaka failed
to file a timely answer. July 3, 2014 Mem. Op. & Order at
13; see Claim of Godson M. Nnaka [ECF No. 10-2].
the government moved for default judgment as to certain
properties. Gov't's Mot. for Entry of Default J. [ECF
No. 64]. Finding no verified claim to those assets had been
filed and noting that the motion was unopposed, the Court
granted the government's motion for entry of default
judgment and ordered that those assets be forfeited. Aug. 6,
2014 Mem. Op. & Order at 2-3. On December 17, 2015, the
Court certified as final the Order striking Nnaka's three
claims and the Order entering default judgment against the
subset of defendant properties. Dec. 17, 2015 Mem. Op. &
Order at 6-7.
appealed the December 17, 2015 Order, as well as the
predicate Order striking the claims, the entry of default
judgment, and a subsequent denial of his motion for a
charging lien. See United States v. All Assets Held,
712 Fed. App'x 13, 14 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (per curiam).
While his appeals were pending, Nnaka filed a motion in this
Court to vacate the default judgment and the entry of final
judgment. Oct. 24, 2017 Mot. to Vacate [ECF No. 198]. In
light of Nnaka's appeal from the same orders to the D.C.
Circuit, this Court found that it lacked jurisdiction over
Nnaka's motion and deferred ruling on the motion to
vacate until the conclusion of his appeal. Nov. 15, 2017
Order [ECF No. 203] at 2, 4. The Court granted him leave to
renew his motion, if appropriate, following the Circuit
court's decision. Id. at 4. Nnaka appealed this
Order as well. Nov. 30, 2017 Notice of Appeal [ECF No. 205].
February 6, 2018, the D.C. Circuit entered judgment in
Nnaka's first set of relevant appeals. It affirmed this
Court's July 3, 2014 Order striking the three claims to
the assets filed by Nnaka, finding that the Court had not
abused its discretion by striking the claims “[g]iven
the repeated violations of Supplemental Rule G.”
All Assets Held, 712 Fed. App'x at 14. It also
affirmed the Court's December 17, 2015 entry of final
judgment. Id. at 15. It dismissed Nnaka's appeal
from this Court's August 6, 2014 entry of default
judgment because the motion for default was unopposed and
hence the arguments were improperly presented for the first
time on appeal. Id. at 14. In so doing, the D.C.
Circuit noted that “Nnaka lacks Article III standing to
contest default in a proceeding in which he was not a party,
” and that, “[i]n any event, Nnaka has provided
no basis for the court to conclude that the default judgment
was, as he maintains, the product of a fraud on the
court.” Id. It also dismissed Nnaka's
appeal from the denial of his motion for a charging lien.
Id. at 15.
the appeal had concluded and Nnaka was now free to renew his
motion to vacate judgment, the D.C. Circuit dismissed as moot
his appeal from the order deferring judgment on his motion.
United States v. All Assets Held, No. 17-5273, 2018
U.S. App. LEXIS 14620, at *1-2 (D.C. Cir. May 31, 2018) (per
curiam). The court instructed that, “[i]f [Nnaka]
renews his motion to vacate, the district court may address
in the first instance [Nnaka's] standing to file the
motion.” Id. at *2.
13, 2018, Nnaka filed a renewed motion to vacate the default
judgment and final judgment entered against the subset of
defendant assets. Primarily asserting fraud on the Court, he
moves for relief from judgment pursuant to three provisions
of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60. Oct. 24, 2017 Mot. to
Vacate at 2 (citing Rule 60(b)(4), (b)(6), and
(d)(3)). He has also filed a motion for a
preliminary injunction seeking to bar the government from
distributing any portion of the defendant assets until the
resolution of his motion to vacate and of any relevant
appeal. Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at 1, 14. The government
opposed the motion for a preliminary injunction, noting that
“Nnaka's claims to the defendant assets were not
reinstated by the D.C. Circuit.” Opp. to Mot. for Inj.
[ECF No. 241] at 1.
forfeiture actions are proceedings “brought against
property, not people.” United States v. All Assets
Held at Bank Julius, Baer & Company, Ltd., 228
F.Supp.3d 118, 122 (D.D.C. 2017) (citation omitted). An
individual may intervene in the proceeding if, and only if,
he has standing under Article III of the Constitution.
See United States v. Seventeen Thousand Nine Hundred
Dollars ($17, 900.00) in U.S. Currency, 859 F.3d 1085,
1089 (D.C. Cir. 2017). In a forfeiture proceeding, an
intervenor has Article III standing if he possesses a
colorable claim on the property such that “the claim of
injury is ‘redressable, at least in part, by a return
of the property.'” United States v. Emor,
785 F.3d 671, 676 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).
Nnaka has no claim on the property and hence no stake in the
outcome of the forfeiture proceedings. The D.C. Circuit has
already affirmed this Court's Order striking Nnaka's
claims to the property, All Assets Held, 712 Fed.
App'x at 14, and the time to file new claims has long
since passed, see Supp. R. G(5)(a)(ii)(B) (requiring
anyone claiming a legal interest in the property to file a
verified claim within 60 days from the first date of the
government's publication of a notice of the forfeiture
action). Hence, there is no path forward that would permit
Nnaka to assert an interest in the property. All Assets
Held, 712 Fed. App'x at 15 (“No claim having
been filed, he no longer has a basis for continuing to
participate in this forfeiture proceeding.”). Simply
put, “Nnaka lacks Article III standing to contest the
default in a proceeding in which he was not a party.”
Id. at 14.
Nnaka does not have standing to request relief from the
default judgment, the Court need not consider the merits of
his motion. Moreover, even if the Court accepted Nnaka's
incredible allegations and found that he indeed had authority to
represent Nigeria,  his claims were appropriately struck
because they were procedurally deficient. Id. The
fact that there were no verified claims to the assets would
remain unchanged and the default judgment would remain
Court will likewise deny Nnaka's request to enjoin
preliminarily any distribution of the forfeited assets until
the resolution of any appeal of the Court's denial of his
motion to vacate. See Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at 14.
As stated, Nnaka lacks the requisite standing to participate
in this action. Moreover, preliminary injunctive relief may
only be granted when the movant shows “(1) a
substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that it
would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction were not
granted, (3) that an injunction would not substantially
injure other interested parties, and (4) that the public
interest would be furthered by the injunction.”
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