Story by Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
Esther Oba, former First Lady Patience Jonathan’s younger sister, have filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of a Federal High Court, Lagos, granting final order of forfeiture of the sum of $8.4 million and N9.2 billion, which parts belongs to her.
The court presided by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, had on Monday, ordered that the said sums be finally forfeited to the Federal government of Nigeria, for been proceeds of unlawful activities.
Justice Olatoregun gave the order while delivering judgment in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/620/2018, instituted before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Patience Jonathan some companies and Esther Oba, who is the seventh respondent in the suit.
The companies are: Globus Integrated Services Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, Am-Pm Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited, Magel Resort Limited.
Dissatisfied with the final forfeiture order, Esther whose monies in the forfeited sums were $429, 000 USD, domiciled in Skye Bank Plc Account No 2110003170, in the notice of appeal to set aside the judgment and stay of execution of the judgment at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Esther in her notice of appeal to set aside the judgment and motion for stay of execution filed by her lawyer, counsel, Mr. Ige Asemudara, has the EFCC, Patience Jonathan, Globus Integrated Services Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, Am-Pm Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited, Magel Resort Limited as first to sixth respondents.
The appellate’s motion for stay of execution of the judgment, is also asking for an order of injunction against the EFCC or any other persons at all from executing the judgment of this honourable court delivered on July 1, 2019, pending the hearing and determination of her appeal filed against the said judgment.
The appellant listed eight ground for which the Court of Appeal must set aside Justice Olatoregun’s final forfeiture order on her money.
The appellant in one of the ground of appeal states that the Learned trial Judge erred in law when he granted the EFCC’s motion for final forfeiture against her despite compelling evidence of the legitimate sources of the money in her Skye Bank Plc Account No. 2110003170, and Haven showed good caused why the money should not be forfeited.
She stated that haven given evidence of how she kept part of the estocodes (foreign travel allowances) in dollars as well as gifts of money in dollars during her first childbirth and her mothers burial ceremony in the Skye Bank Plc account, the claim she said was never challenge by the EFCC during cross-examination.
The appellant also stated that the learned trial judge erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when she made a final order forfeiting her money in Skye Bank Plc Account No. 2110003170 despite the EFCC’s inability to fulfill the legal conditions of supply the requisite materials that making such order. Stating the the EFCC only made on unfounded allegation of suspicion of illicit sources of the money, which the agency’s two witnesses could not state any particular unlawful activity for which she was suspected to be involved or made the money from
She also stated that the EFCC’s alleged facts in its affidavit that one Festus Iyoho stated in on extra-judicial statements made to its officials that Dr. Weripamo Owei Dudafa Special Assistant to the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan gave him monies to pay into her account was successfully challenged and disproved under cross examination, as the agency case was just based on hunches, guesses, conjectures and speculation.
The appellant further stated that the learned trial judge misdirected herself when she held that she failed to dispel the suspicious against her on the balance at probabilities and ordered that her money in her personal Skye Bank Plc Account No. 2110003l70 be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
She also stated that said the particular of the trial judge’s misdirection was that the basis at EFCC’s allegation or suspicion was the purported link the money to one Dr. Waripamo Owei Emmanuel Dudafa which was clearly dispelled by her oral evidence as well as the affidavit evidence which adduced that the allegation of money withdrawn or taken from the Central Bank at Nigeria and handed over to Dr. Waripamo Dudafa was completely baseless and unsubstantiated.
She added that the oral testimonies of the EFCC’s two witnesses were destroyed, displaced and disapproved under Cross-examination. And that the leaned trial judge in his review of evidence wrongly held that she stated that she made the entire money in a space of one month as against the clear evidence on record.
She also stated that the Learned Trial Judge erred in law and breached her right to fair hearing when she refused to hear or determine her affidavit to show cause she earlier ordered before proceeding to hear the EFCC’s motion for final forfeiture of Appellant’s fund domiciled in Skye Bank Plc.
The appellant said the particular of error of law by the trial judge was when the honourable Court made an exparte order of interim forfeiture on April 20, 2018, same was published in the Newspaper on April 26, 2018, in which the court directed her or anyone Interested in the property/ subject of the order at interim forfeiture to show cause why on order of forfeiture should not be made against her.
She states that she filed her affidavit showing cause and served same on the EFCC on May 10, 2018, but the court failed and/or refused to consider her affidavit to show cause before proceeding to hear the EFCC’s motion for final forfeiture subsequently filed on June 7, 2018 and served on June 12, 2018.
She said the facts contained in her affidavit to show cause why Order of final forfeiture should not be made against her are sufficient to discharge the order of interim forfeiture had the learned trial judge considered same.
The appellant stated that another ground for the the Appeal Court to set aside Justice Olatoregun’s judgment is the the Trial Judge erred in law and breached her right to fair hearing when she refused to hear or determine her motion seeking to set aside the exparte order of interim forfeiture on the ground of want of jurisdiction before proceeding to hear EFCC’s motion for final forfeiture of her fund domiciled in Skye Bank Plc.
The appellant also alleged that the learned trial judge erred in law and occasioned miscarriage of justice when she refused to set aside the exparte order of interim forfeiture made against her despite her application for same. While adding that the EFCC concealed, suppressed and misrepresent material facts to the Honourable Court in obtaining the said order.
She stated that the EFCC had presented to court that she was on the run and at large. And that the EFCC concealed to the Court that she has made copious statements to it under caution in relation to the money in her account and other accounts. Adding that the EFCC misrepresented to the Court that at the said money was unclaimed and that it was proceed unlawful activity.
She also stated that the trial judge erred in law when she made an order of final forfeiture of her money in Skye Bank Plc Account No 2110003170, despite her proofs that the money was not proceed of any unlawful activity which she explained in her affidavit to show cause, the counter affidavit in opposition to the EFCC’s motion for final forfeiture and other affidavits on how she legitimately earned the said money.
She also stated that another particular error mede in the judgment was that none at the alleged extra judicial statements of Emmanuel Waripamo Owei Dudafa and Festus Iyoha exhibited by the EFCC linked her funds to any unlawful activities. And that she has not been charged or indicted for any unlawful activity. Adding that all the affidavit of facts filed by her and the EFCC shown clearly that she was not involved with any unlawful activities
With all that were stated above, the appellant in her notice of appeal is urging the Court of Appeal to allow her appeal by setting aside the decision of the Federal High Court delivered by Justice C. M. A. Olatoregun made on July 1, 2019.