The Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos has refused to grant Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s plea to unfreeze her accounts holding $15.591 million.
Justice Mohammed Idris had ordered parties to file pleas concerning ownership of the accounts. He, however, described the issues raised by the defendants as “baseless.”
“The issues formulated by all the defendants are baseless. They go to no issue and will be ignored by the court,” the judge said.
“I hold that this court lacks the competence to determine the issues raised by the defendants in their written addresses, having abandoned the specific issues formulated by the plaintiff in the originating summons.
“It is unfortunate. I say this because the issues raised by the defendants appear on the face of it good and deserving to be considered on their merit. But I as I understand it to be the law, sentiment has no basis in the adjudicatory system,” the judge stated.
Justice Idris said where processes are not properly prepared, any defect would render the proceeding fatal, as the court cannot “re-formulate” the issues for determination.
The judge further held that there is still contention over the ownership of the accounts.
“In respect of this issue, the contention appears divided, and there is clearly an air of friction in the proceedings,” the judge said.
According to him, all the counter-affidavits filed by the defendants contained disputed facts that cannot be decided without oral evidence.
“In the light of the above affidavit evidence, it cannot, in my view, be rightly contended that there are no disputed facts of substance as to the ownership of the said funds and the law.
“The issues of fact raised by the defendants herein are not spurious or irrelevant. The affidavit of the plaintiff is also not conjectural.
“In my view, the facts are contentious, and oral evidence needs to be led by the parties herein. In the light of the above facts, this case is generally not suitable for an originating summons procedure.
“In the circumstances, the court hereby orders that the parties herein file pleadings in accordance with the Federal High Court civil procedure rules 2009 and trial shall then proceed accordingly. This is the order of the court,” Justice Idris held.
The commission urged the court not to unfreeze the accounts because the funds they hold are suspected to be proceeds of a crime.
Mrs. Jonathan pleaded to the court in Lagos to order the EFCC to unfreeze the accounts to enable her access the money.
EFCC, Skye Bank Plc, Jonathan’s former aide Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd are the respondents in the case.
The companies, through their representatives, had pleaded guilty to laundering the money on September 15, 2016 when they were arraigned before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the same court.
They were charged along with Dudafa, Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku, for laundering the money.
Unlike the companies, Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
In a supporting affidavit to the suit, Mrs. Jonathan’s aide, Sammie Somiari, said Mr. Dudafa helped the former first lady open the accounts.
He said Mr. Dudafa, on March 22, 2010, brought two Skye Bank officers, Demola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi, to meet Mrs. Jonathan.
The deponent claimed Mrs. Jonathan was the sole signatory to the accounts and that she had no relationship with the companies.