The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has moved for final forfeiture of some seized fund belonging to former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan
– According to the EFCC, the sums are to the tune of $5.7 million and N2.4 billion, which it claimed are proceeds from financial crimes
– However, Patience, through her lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe, has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to disregard the EFCC’s claims, adding that no one has complained that she stole any money
Moves by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are underway to effect the final forfeiture of $5.7 million and N2.4 billion belonging to former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, through the ruling of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Claiming that the said sums are proceeds of financial crimes, the EFCC through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, moved an application for the final forfeiture, The Nation reports.
However, Patience’s lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), in his defence maintained that the moneys are not stolen, but that they are partly gifts from friends. Adedipe added that so far no one, apart from the agency, has raised alarm that the accused is guilty of theft.
Reacting to this, Musbahu Yahaha Abubakar, an EFCC official, through an affidavit in support of the ex-parte originating summons, said that the former first lady opened a Skye Bank account in February, 2013.
Yahaha said: “One Dudafa Waripamo Owei, who was the Senior Special Assistant to the former President, was one of the frequent depositors in the account. Another frequent cash depositor of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities into the account is one Festus Iyoha, a steward at the State House, Abuja.
“If this funds are not forfeited in the interim, the operator of the account, Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan, will fully dissipate it.”
The commission said the sum of N2.4billion was found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account numbered 2022000760 in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd.
The commission claimed that the said signatory to the account was one Ada Ifegbu, with a telephone number belonging to one Esther Oba.
Abubakar said the N2.4billion “was substantially the naira equivalent of the United States dollars given to one Chima Nwafor John of Ecobank Nigeria Ltd by one Esther Oba at the Aso Rock Villa.”
The commission’s operative said it was John who arranged bureau de change operators to convert the money to naira and deposit it to La Wari Furniture and Baths’s account.
In his plea for the forfeiture of the sums, Oyedepo said: “The $5million was not the first respondent’s legitimate earning. She was a public servant and a salary earner. The sums cannot be her legitimate income. We urge the court to agree with us and forfeit the sum to the Federal Government.”
But denying EFCC’s claims, Adedipe said: “It is not the law that if the EFCC finds money in an account and it doesn’t like the owner’s face, it comes to court and says ‘forfeit it’.
“The government is at liberty to apply for forfeiture, but the offence must be stated. The first respondent is the wife of a former deputy governor, governor, vice president and president. Even the current occupier of the office of the First Lady wants to build a university.
“In this country, First Ladies enjoy a lot of goodwill. She (Mrs Jonathan) stated that governors gave her money. Nobody wrote that she stole their money.
“All EFCC said is that they saw money in her account and assumed it was stolen. They didn’t say from whom. You don’t pick on your political opponents.
“We urge your Lordship to hold that the money is not proceeds of unlawful act. It’s not a crime to be given money.
“It is settled law that suspicion no matter how grave can never amount to legal evidence to prove the guilt or culpability of anyone either in criminal or civil proceedings.
“They have not brought anybody to complain that money is missing. It is not a crime that La Wari Furniture and Baths had made money.
“EFCC has not shown any predicate offence committed by La Wari Furniture and Baths. They threw a wide net into the sea looking to catch a fish. We urge your Lordship to refuse this application.”
Following the inconclusive nature of the proceedings, Justice Olatoregun adjourned the case until Monday, June 24.
The interim forfeiture order was earlier granted by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos. This was the second time Patience Jonathan would forfeit huge sums in just days following the ruling of the Supreme Court.