By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
A Lagos Federal High Court sitting in Lagos today further adjourned hearing of a suit by the Federal Government seeking final forfeiture of the sum of $5.7 million and N2. 421, 953, 522.71 said to be in some accounts belonging to former first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan till May 24.
The court presided over by Justice Cecilia Mojisola Olatoregun, had on April 26, 2017, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the monies, consequent upon an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The order was later affirmed by both Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
EFCC said the N2.4 billion in an account belonging to La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited were reasonably suspected to be proceed of unlawful activities.
Following the temporary forfeiture, Mrs Jonathan, through her lawyer 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, directing the appellant to return before Justice Olatoregun to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The Supreme Court also rejected Patience Jonathan’s prayer to strike down the provisions of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, which EFCC relied on in filing the application.
Yesterday, 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, and a further affidavit.
He said EFCC filed and served its reply to the Ozekhome’s motions on Tuesday.
Responding, Ozekhome said: “We got their affidavit at 5.5pm yesterday (Tuesday). A plethora of exhibits were attached. Their affidavit is replete with new facts.
“These are facts that are weighty, so weighty that it require our response. 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 adjournment.
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, the sum of $6, 791, 599.64 suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities was deposited into the account in cash.
He said Mrs Jonathan had 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 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 “were substantially the naira equivalent of the United States Dollars given to one Chima Nwafor 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.
Consequently, Justice Olatoregun adjourned the matter till May 24, for hearing of all applications.