EFCC ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ME WEIGHTY SAYS PATIENCE JONATHAN

Former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan Wednesday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos for time to respond to “weighty” allegations against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, on April 26, 2017, ordered the temporary forfeiture of $5.7million and N2, 421,953,522.78 allegedly belonging to Mrs. Jonathan.

The judge made the order based on an ex-parte application by the EFCC.

The commission said the N2.4billion was found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account numbered 2022000760 in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd.

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

The Court of Appeal, last 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 judgment.

It directed the appellant to return to before Justice Olatoregun to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

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

Wednesday, 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 final forfeiture; the other is a further affidavit.

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

Responding, Ozekhome said: “We got their affidavit at 5.5pm on Tuesday. A plethora of exhibits were attached. Their affidavit is replete with new facts.

“These are facts that 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.”

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

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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, $6,791,599.64 suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities was deposited into the account in cash.

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He said Mrs Jonathan 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. Dame Patience 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.

The EFCC operative 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.”

He said it was John who contracted bureau de change operators to convert the money to naira and deposit it to La Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd’s account.

Justice Olatoregun adjourned until May 24.