An associate of the former First lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, Esther Oba, has asked a Federal High Court, Lagos, to set aside an earlier order of interim forfeiture of the sum of $8.435,789.84 million and N9.185, 327, 362 billion linked to former first lady to the federal government of Nigeria.
The court presided over by Justice Cecilia Mojisola Olatoregun, had on April 19, made an order of interim forfeiture of the monies while granting an Exparte application filed before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), against Mrs. Jonathan, Esther Oba and some companies.
The companies named in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/620/18, are: Globus Integrated Service Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, AM-PM Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited, and Magel Resort Limited.
The monies were said to be warehoused in some banks, which include: Skye Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Stabic-IBTC and First Bank Plc.,
After granting the order, Justice Olatoregun ordered EFCC to publish the order of interim forfeiture in a national newspaper, so that whosoever has interest in the slush money should approach the court within 14 days, to show cause why the monies will not be permanently forfeited to the Federal government of Nigeria.
At the resumed hearing of the matter today, Esther Oba, who was alleged to be instrumental to lodging the monies into designated bank accounts, linked to Patience. Jonathan, in a motion on notice filed by her lawyer, Ige Asemudara, asked for an order of the court setting aside the interim order forfeiture of the money.
She also asked the court for an order striking down the entire provisions of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other related offences Act 2006, for being inconsistent with Section 1, 36 (5), and 44 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
In asking the court for the aforementioned orders, Oba, stated that the order was obtained by the EFCC concealing material facts or misrepresenting facts, and that the order made by the court without requisite jurisdiction and in breach of fair hearing provision of the constitution, the Evidence Act, and other statues.
Oba also further stated that there was no reasonable cause of action against her, and that the exparte motion was brought in bad faith, adding that the suit constitutes an abuse of court process.
However, counsel to defendants, namely; Ifedayo Adedipe and Mike Ozekhome both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), told the court that they are still filing their processes against the interim order of forfeiture.
While EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that he was just served with Oba’s motion , and that he will need time to respond.
Upon the submissions made by EFCC lawyer and that of defendants, the Trial Judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, admonished all parties to file all applications and front-loads all documents they needed and serve same on the parties before the next adjournment.
She therefore adjourned the matter till June 18, for hearing of preliminary objections and motion to discharge the interim order of forfeiture.
In urging the court for the temporary forfeiture of the monies, the EFCC in an affidavit deposed to by one of its investigator, 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 linked to Patience 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, in to 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 unlawful act, into the 1st respondent’s account, using fictitious names.
“The total sum of $4, 036, 750. 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 September 28, 2016, the first respondent, in dissipating the property sought to be forfeited, transferred the sum of $3, 640, 794. 72 to the first respondent’s account No. 2031277178 domiciled in First Bank Plc.
“On October 5, 2016, the first respondent withdrew the sum of $1 million 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 first 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 first 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.
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 second respondent was also said to have opened account number; 2110002269 with Skye Bank Plc. mainly to retain proceeds of unlawful activities.
The deponent further averred that accounts were opened in the name of the fourth to sixth 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 crime.