Former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, has been ordered by a Lagos Federal High Court to temporarily forfeit her $5.8 million to the Federal Government.
The order is as a result of an ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking that the money be forfeited to the government, pending the determination of the motion on notice.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun granted the order as prayed after counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, moved the ex-parte application, urging the court to grant the order.
The freezing order is coming barely 24 hours after the EFCC withdrew an application for stay of prosecution of the court’s earlier ruling, unfreezing Jonathan’s account. The court had given Patience unfettered access to the seized funds.
The EFCC had earlier placed a “No Debit Order” on the account pursuant to an interim order by Justice Olatoregun in November, last year.
But Patience, through her lawyer, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), had challenged the action and succeeded in getting the court to vacate the freezing order on April 6, 2017.
The EFCC, which was displeased, had immediately gone on appeal and also filed an application seeking a stay of execution of the freezing order pending the outcome of the appeal.
But in a dramatic twist on Tuesday, April 25, a counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, appeared before Justice Olatoregun, saying the commission had changed its mind about challenging the freezing order and applied to withdraw the application to stay the execution of the unfreezing order.
Consequently, the judge on Tuesday struck out the application for stay of execution, giving Patience Jonathan unfettered access to the funds.
The judge also granted an application by counsel for Skye Bank, Mr. Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN), that the Form 48 and Form 49 filed against his client by Patience to cite his bank for contempt, should be struck out.
However, on Wednesday, April 26, the EFCC lawyer, Oyedepo, reappeared before the judge with a new ex parte application to freeze Patience’s account afresh.
In the new motion titled ‘Action in Rem,’ the commission sought an order for interim forfeiture of the said $5.8 million lodged in the Skye Bank.
The commission also sought an order directing the interim forfeiture of N2.4 billion discovered in an EcoBank account in the name of La Wari Furniture and Bath Ltd, suspected to be proceeds of crime.
It further sought for the publication in any national newspaper, of the said order, to enable any interested party to appear and show why the interim order should not be made final.
In an affidavit, the commission averred that it received an intelligence report that funds suspected to be proceeds of crime were warehoused in a Skye Bank account belonging to Patience Jonathan.
It said that the report was analysed and found worthy of investigation, adding that the ex- First Lady opened the account on February 7, 2013.
According to the commission, several cash deposits were made by the ex- First Lady in United States Dollars, through Waripamo Dudafa, a former aide to ex- President Goodluck Jonathan.
The commission averred that another frequent depositor of funds into the said account was one Festus Iyoha, a steward in the State House, Abuja.
The EFCC said that between February 8, 2013 and January 30, 2015, about $6.7 million suspected to be proceeds of crime were deposited into the account. According to the commission, Patience Jonathan had dissipated the funds, leaving a balance of about $5.7 million.
The commission further averred that if the fund was not forfeited in the interim, it may be fully dissipated by Jonathan.
It added that N2.03 billion, suspected proceeds of crime, was currently on fixed deposit in the account of La Wari Furniture, in addition to a credit balance of about N389 million. The commission urged the court to grant the application in the interest of justice.
Granting the order, Justice Olatoregun adjourned the case till May 15, to enable any interested party to appear and show cause why the interim order should not be made final.
Source : Nigeria.