A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted an interim forfeiture of the sum of N9.2bn and $8.4m linked to the wife of former President, Patience Jonathan.
The money is to be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun granted the order following an application filed before her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after it had consolidated all similar applications on the subject matter.
On April 14, while delivering the ruling on an objection raised by Mrs Jonathan to the EFCC’s first ex-parte application on the funds, the court had held that the move by the anti-graft agency was an abuse of court process.
The judge reached this conclusion because the funds which the commission sought to forfeit to the federal government were already the subject of litigation before two other judges.
The judge, had, however, ordered the commission to publish the order in a national newspaper to give any interested party an opportunity to come before the court within 14 days to show cause why the sums should not be permanently forfeited.
Patience Jonathan, five firms and one, Esther Oba were listed as respondents in the suit.
The firms that were listed as second to sixth defendants were; Globus Integrated Services Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, Am-Pm Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited and Magel Resort Limited.
An investigator with the EFCC, Huleji Tukura, who deposed to a 15-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte application claimed that investigations by the anti-graft agency revealed that the funds found in the bank accounts and linked to Patience Jonathan emanated from the coffers of Bayelsa State. The funds were said to have been moved at a time when the former first lady served as a permanent secretary in one of the ministries in Bayelsa State.
According to Tukura, Mrs Jonathan first opened a First Bank account and then “procured” the then Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, 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 (Patience).
“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 an 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’ dollar) 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 in 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 averred.
The deponent further averred 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 claimed that every now and then domestic servants at the Presidential Villa were sent to deposit money into the companies’ accounts for Mrs Jonathan.
“The depositors into this account are domestic staff of State House, Abuja, who was 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.
The case has been adjourned to the 11th of May, for interested parties to show cause why the funds should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.