Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered for oral evidence in a suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking an order to forfeit the sum of N9.2billion and $8.3million linked to Patience Jonathan.
Giving the order, Olatoregun said: “I have stated here that the right of parties in this suit cannot be determined by affidavit evidence unless the oral testimonies are called with cross extermination. I hereby order parties to call upon their witnesses so that the right of parties can be determined one way or the other.”
Justice Olatoregun had earlier dismissed numerous preliminary objections filed by Patience Jonathan and her co-defendants that temporary forfeiture made in May 2018 is an abuse of court process.
"I hold that this suit was filed under section 17 of the Advanced Free Fraud and Related Offences Act, which an action in realm thereby cannot constitute and abuse,” the Judge ruled.
Consequently the case was adjourned till March 13 and 14 for oral evidence.
Justice Olatoregun had, in May 2018, granted temporary forfeiture of N9.2billion and $8.4million linked to the embattled former First lady. The judge made the order on the application filed and argued by Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to EFCC, on April 20, 2018.
The funds were said to be in the custody of Skye Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank and First Bank Plc. The judge also directed EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper within 14 days of the order and that the respondent be served. Listed alongside Mrs Jonathan as respondents in the suit include one Esther Oba and five companies – Globus Integrated Services Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, Am-Pm Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited and Magel Resort Limited.
Hellijia Tukura, an EFCC investigator, who deposed to a 15-paragraph affidavit in support of the application, claimed that investigations by the agency showed that the funds found in the bank accounts linked to Mrs Jonathan emanated from the coffers of the Bayelsa State government.
The funds, he said, were moved when the former first lady served as a permanent secretary in one of the ministries in the state.
According to Tukura, Mrs. Jonathan first opened a First Bank account and then “procured” Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, the then Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, to fund the account with “proceeds of unlawful activities”.
“The said Dudafa Waripamo-Owei procured one Festus Isidohomen Iyoha and Arivi Eneji Peter, who were domestic staff attached to the State House, Abuja, to deposit the funds, reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities, into account of the 1st respondent (Mrs Jonathan).
“In depositing the funds into the account of the 1st respondent, the said domestic staff, in a bid to conceal their identity, deposited the funds, reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful act, into the 1st respondent’s account, using fictitious names.
“The total sum of $4,036,750.00 (Four million, thirty-six thousand, seven hundred and fifty United States dollars) reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities, were deposited into account No. 2022648664 domiciled in First Bank Plc in the name of the 1st respondent.
“On the 28th day of September, 2016, the 1st respondent, in dissipating the property sought to be forfeited, transferred the sum of $3,640,794.72 to the 1st respondent’s account No. 2031277178 domiciled in First Bank Plc. On the 5th day of October, 2016, the 1st respondent withdrew the sum of $1,000,000.00 cash from the said account leaving the balance of the sum of $3,645,013.73 which sum we are urging this honourable court to forfeit in the interim to the Federal Government of Nigeria. As at the time the various sums were deposited into exhibit EFCC01, the 1st respondent was a serving permanent secretary in the employment of the Bayelsa State Government.
“The funds sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria are not the 1st respondent’s lawful earnings but are rather reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.”
The deponent further stated that the companies mentioned in the application were not into “any legitimate income-yielding business venture” but were rather incorporated at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for the purpose of warehousing proceeds of unlawful activities for the former first lady.
He said domestic servants at the Presidential Villa were regularly sent to deposit money into the companies’ accounts for Mrs. Jonathan.
“The depositors into this account are domestic staff of State House, Abuja, procured by the said Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, to deposit the funds sought to be forfeited in a bid to conceal the true origin of the funds,” Tukura said.
Making specific reference to Globus Integrated Services Ltd., Tukura said: “None of the Directors of the 2nd respondent are signatories to the said account.”
The 2nd respondent was also said to have opened account number 2110002269 with Skye Bank Plc., mainly to retain proceeds of unlawful activities. The deponent also added that the accounts were opened in the name of the 4th-6th respondents in Diamond Bank Plc. solely to retain funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
“Account No. 0016971559 was opened in the name of the 4th respondent (Am-Pm Global Network Limited) with Stanbic IBTC Bank and was used to warehouse N317,397,458 .26 reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities,” the deponent said.