Court orders interim forfeiture of Patience Jonathan’s $5.8m, N2.5bn - BUSINESSDAY
The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Friday, upheld the order of interim forfeiture of the sum of $5, 842, 316.66 and N2, 421, 953, 522.78 traced to the accounts of the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, to the Federal Government.
Spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC), Wilson Uwujaren, said Justice C.M.A. Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, had, on April 26, 2017, granted an order of interim forfeiture of the sum N5, 842, 316.66 traced to Jonathan’s account number 211001712 domiciled with Skye Bank Plc on the grounds that the money was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
According to him, ” judge also granted another order of interim forfeiture of the sum of N2, 421, 953, 522.78 surreptitiously kept by Jonathan in an account number 202200760 domiciled with Eco Bank Plc in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited”
The order came following an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
An operative of the Commission, Musbahu Abubakar, who deposed to the affidavit, had told the court that the former First Lady opened the Skye Bank account on February 7, 2013.
Abubakar had also told Justice Olatoregun that the former First Lady made several United States Dollars cash deposits into the account through Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, a former aide to Goodluck Jonathan, and a State House steward, Festus Iyoha.
Moving the application for the temporary forfeiture of the money, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, had prayed the court to urgently freeze the account so as to prevent her from moving the funds.
In her ruling, Justice Olatoregun had granted the prayers of the EFCC counsel and directed Jonathan to show cause why the money should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.
However, in a bid to set aside the ruling of Justice Olatoregun, the former First Lady, through her team of lawyers led by both Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and I.A. Adedeipe, approached the appellate court to set aside the order of the lower court.
Jonathan’s lawyers also urged the Court of Appeal to declare as unconstitutional the provisions of Sections 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006.
However, the appellate court of appeal presided over by Justice Mojeed A. Owoade upheld both the constitutionality of Section 17 and the order of the interim forfeiture of the various sums of money belonging to Jonathan.
In a related development, the five-man panel of the Supreme Court on Friday, ordered the re-trial of a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who was charged with an alleged N338m fraud.
The apex court had reserved judgment till today to determine whether or not Ikuforiji should be tried afresh, as ordered by the Court of Appeal.
The panel headed by Justice Mary Peter-Odili unanimously ruled that the case be re-assigned to another judge of the Federal High Court instead of Justice Ibrahim Buba, who had earlier absolved Ikuforiji of the charge.
Justice Buba had, in a ruling in September 2014, held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, failed to establish a prima facie case against Ikuforiji and his former aide, Oyebode Atoyebi.
The judge had also dismissed the 56-count charge preferred against the accused by the EFCC.
Dissatisfied with Justice Buba’s ruling, the EFCC appealed to the Court of Appeal, which upturned the ruling.
The appellate court had also ordered both Ikuforiji and Atoyebi to be tried by another judge.
However, in 2016, both Ikuforiji and Atoyebi, with whom he was charged, tried and absolved of the charge by Justice Buba had approached the apex court, where they filed separate appeals against the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Tony Ailemen, Abuja