9 May 2019

Nigeria: Govt's Final Forfeiture Suit Against Patience Jonathan's $5.7m, N2.4bn Adjourned Till May 24

A Lagos Federal High Court in Lagos Wednesday further adjourned hearing on a suit by the federal government seeking the final forfeiture of the sum of $5.7 million and N2.421,953, 522.71 linked to former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, till May 24.

The court presided over by Justice Cecilia Mojisola Olatoregun, had on April 26, 2017, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the monies, sequel to an ex-parte application by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), an order which was affirmed by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

EFCC said the N2.4 billion is in an account belonging to La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited.

Following the temporary forfeiture, Mrs. Jonathan, through her lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), appealed.

The Court of Appeal had on January 12, upheld the temporary forfeiture.

Dissatisfied, Mrs. Jonathan appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on March 15, affirmed the Court of Appeal's judgment, directing the appellant to return to before Justice Olatoregun to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

The Supreme Court also rejected her prayer to strike down the provisions of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, which the EFCC relied on in filing the application.

When the case came up yesterday, EFCC's lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said he received two affidavits from Ozekhome on April 29.

One of them, he said, is a counter-affidavit to the motion on notice for a final forfeiture, and a further affidavit.

He said the EFCC filed and served its reply to the SAN's motions on Tuesday.

Responding, Ozekhome said: "We got their affidavit at 5.5p.m. yesterday (Tuesday). A plethora of exhibits were attached. Their affidavit is replete with new facts.

"These are facts are weighty; so weighty that they require us to respond. We don't want any of their facts to be deemed admitted because we did not respond.

"I was served with a bulky document which has things that were not part of the original application.

"I'm only saying that in the interest of justice, we need to react to those issues raised," he explained.

Adedipe said he had no objections to Ozekhome's request for adjournment.

Granting the adjournment, Justice Olatoregun said there must be an end to litigation.

"I hope parties realise that there must be an end to backward and forward filing of applications," she said.

In an affidavit in support of the ex-parte originating summons, an EFCC operative, Musbahu Yahaha Abubakar, said Mrs. Jonathan opened the Skye Bank account on February 7, 2013.

"Upon the opening of the account, several huge cash deposits in dollars were made to the account.

"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," the deponent said.

The EFCC investigator said Iyoha also made deposits with fictitious names.

Abubakar said between February 8, 2013 and January 30, 2015, the sum of $6,791,599.64 suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities was deposited into the account in cash.

He said Mrs Jonathan had dissipated part of the funds, leaving a balance of $5,731,173.55.

"If this fund is not forfeited in the interim, the operator of the account, Mrs Jonathan, will fully dissipate it," the investigator said.

On the N2.4billion, the operative said the commission also traced the money to the Ecobank account following suspicions that it was a proceed of crime.

He said the "purported" signatory to the account was one Ada Ifegbu, with a telephone number belonging to one Esther Oba.

Nigeria

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