Release my money or face consequences
Ex-First Lady seeks N5bn damages, apology as anti-graft agency says case in court
Story by Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
Former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Jonathan, has threatened to drag the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in The Gambia if her bank accounts are not de-freezed and a public apology tendered to boot.
She will also demand N5 billion as “damages.”
In a September 18 letter from her lawyers, First Law Solicitors and addressed to the EFCC. Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Mangu, Mrs. Patience Jonathan insisted the anti-graft agency must publicly apologise to her and lift any restrictions on her dollar accounts at Skye Bank Plc.
The letter from First Law Solicitors was signed by Senior Partner, Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, on behalf of the company.
“Consequently, we urge the EFCC to de-freeze our client’s accounts within 14 days from September 18, 2016 and tender a public apology to her. If the EFCC fails, refuses and/or neglects to comply accordingly, we shall file an action at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights at The Gambia demanding N5 billion in exemplary and punitive damages.
In the 26-paragraph letter, the firm said Mrs. Jonathan’s rights were breached in what it described as “the commission’s illegal and unlawful investigation of our client for alleged money laundering. These investigations have reportedly led to the freezing of our client’s accounts and led to untold consequences to our client’s health and wellbeing…”
The law firm insisted that since the former First Lady was not charged with any economic or financial crimes, and since she had not been invited to make any statement on the seized funds, the commission had no right to freeze her accounts.
“It is our client’s brief that there was no formal criminal complaint of economic and financial crime as defined by the EFCC Act 2004 written by any person or institution against her which warranted the EFCC to freeze her accounts.
“It is also our client’s brief that the EFCC failed to obtain a court order as required by Section 34 of the EFCC Act before her accounts were frozen. It is our client’s further brief that, up until the writing of this open letter, she has not received any formal invitation to appear before the commission for questioning; whereas her accounts domiciled with Skye Bank have since been frozen by the commission without recourse to her.
“The argument put forward by the commission in the public domain that, “investigations are ongoing. Mrs. Jonathan shall be invited in due course,” are not only vexatious and provocative. They constitute an outright violation and rape of the fundamental right to fair hearing and ownership of property as guaranteed to our client by the 1999 Constitution (As amended) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, 2004.
“Indeed, Section 36(6)(a) & (b) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended), contains or laid down a sequence or pattern of commencement of investigation which must be followed strictly, to wit: (a) Persons charged with a criminal offence must be informed in the language they understand and in detail of the nature of the offence; (b) Such persons must be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence; etc
“Instead of strict compliance with the above pattern, as laid down by Section 36(6)(a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended), the EFCC went after our client’s money by ordering a freeze of her accounts. With all due respect, the EFCC is a big thief!
“We hereby categorically and emphatically state Patience Jonathan should be left alone!
“Furthermore, there is no established legal or political precedent for what the EFCC is currently doing to our client.
“How many former first ladies in Nigeria have received the Patience Goodluck Jonathan Treatment (PGJT) to have warranted the EFCC to engage in the effrontery to freeze our client’s accounts and subject her to public opprobrium, ridicule and disgrace?”
Mrs. Jonathan has been the subject of an EFCC investigation with regards to the source of $15 million found in four accounts with Skye Bank.
The former First Lady had maintained the money belongs to her and that she has drawn from the accounts until July this year when the accounts were frozen by the EFCC.
As she maintained funds in the accounts were legal, four individuals representing the four companies linked with the accounts pleaded guilty to money laundering when they were arraigned last week.
The companies – Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Limited; Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Development Company Limited – pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder $15 million.
Directors of the companies are domestic workers of Waripamowei Dudafa, Jonathan’s special adviser on Domestic Affairs.
The former First Lady who was also a defendant in the case had previously clarified that the $15million was for her foreign medical bills and other private expenses.
When contacted, a senior EFCC official, who declined to be named, said, “what do you want us to say again? The case is already in court. So, we won’t comment.” The Sun