The former First lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, on Monday October 29, begged a Federal High Court, Lagos, to unfreeze her accounts housing $8.4m and N7.4 billion.
The former first lady through her lawyers today, argued passionately to Justice Mojisola Olatoregun who presided over the court, while the accounts must be unfreeze.
It would be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on April 20, through an exparte application, obtained an interim forfeiture of the said monies.
After taking argument from the Jonathan’s lawyer, the matter was adjourned till November 13, to take video evidence in a suit and for the EFCC to explained to court while the accounts should remain freeze.
In the suit, EFCC joined as respondents: Patience Jonathan, Globus Integrated Services Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited., Am-Pm Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited and Magel Resort Limited and Esther Oba.
When the case was called on Monday, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo annoumces appearance for the EFCC.
On the other side, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) appeared for the first respondent, Mr Gboyega Oyewole (SAN) appeared for the second respondent, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) appeared for the third to sixth respondents, and Mr Ige Asemudara appeared for the seventh respondent.
After respondent counsel had moved their various motions for regularisation of processes, the court asked the applicant to move his motion for final forfeiture.
Moving his application, Oyedepo informed the Court that the application for final forfeiture is dated May 8, seeking an order of the Court for a final forfeiture of the sums of money listed in the application.
He supported his application with an affidavit deposed to on May 20, by Mr Orji Chukwuma, an operative with the commission, and told the court that he relies on the written averments, as well as exhibits EFCC 12 and 13, in support of his application.
Oydepo told the court that he also relies on the written address attached to the application, and urged the court to grant the application for final forfeiture.
Meanwhile, arguing his processes in opposition dated July 24, Mr Adedipe, counsel to first responden, urged the court to refuse the application for final forfeiture on the grounds that sufficient facts had not been placed before the court to warrant a final order.
According to Adedipe, the sum total of the applicant’s case is that, it found monies in the account of the first respondent, which it said are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
He argued that same respondent was neither invited by the commission, charged nor even prosecuted.
Adedipe argued that the applicant failed to take these preliminary steps, and instea, headed straight to seek for an order of forfeiture.
He said that such practice fell short of prosecutorial procedures.
He argued that the depositions by the applicant that the funds represented proceeds of unlawful activities, has not been substantiated, as section 36 of the constitution provides that a person shall not be convicted of an offence, unless the offence is defined and punishment prescribed.
According to him, there is no crime known as “statutory suspicion” and so, the onus rests on the EFCC to prove that the respondent has such amount of money, and that same was obtained under false pretences or fraud.
He said that although there are depositions that the funds were obtained from “Women for Change” and Bola Shagaya, there are however, no evidences before the court to show that the funds were stolen.
He submitted, that the application against the respondent is vindictive, and urged the court not to allow itself to be used as a vehicle for pressure and injustice.
In the same vein, counsel representing third to sixth respondent, (Ozekhome), argued that going by the provisions of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, the applicant’s motion for final forfeiture is premature, as the affidavit of the third respondent to show cause, has not been taken.
He argued that it is only when same has been argued, and the court finds no merit in it, that the applicant can be justified and better placed to bring such final application.
According to him, the third to sixth respondents filed affidavits to show cause, deposed to by one Ubong, with exhibit attached labelled F1 to F6.
He said that these exhibits shows that the third respondent is a company, shows its certificate of incorporation, its board resolution that Patience Jonathan be made a signatory to it, and bank document evidencing that company’s account are signed by other persons who are also signatories.
Besides, Ozekhome told the court that the third respondent makes money from selling items such as grocery, drinks, lightening among others, adding that exhibit F5 shows video clip evidence of various outfits, legitimately run by third respondent.
He urged the court that the said video exhibit be allowed to be displayed in the open court, adding that exhibit F6 also shows manuals, catalogues, and hand bills, which also shows the legitimate ongoing concern of the third respondent.
Ozekhome adopted similar arguments for the fourth, fifth and sixth respondens.
He said: ” it is trite, that whoever alledges, must prove, and on our part, we have proved that we are entitled to this money they seek to forfeit; so, the onus is on them to show otherwise,”
Also, Mr. Ige Asemudara, lawyer to the seventh defendant, Esther Oba, also told the court that the EFCC oppressed material fact before obtaining the order.
He told the court that his client has honoured EFCC’s invitation on several occasions and she will still attend one soon. This and many other steps taking by his client in claiming the money, he said the EFCC never tell the court before obtaining the interim freezing order.
He therefore urged the court to urged e the court to lift the embargo placed on her client’s account
After listening to all parties Justice Olatoregun adjourned the case until November 13, for the respondent to properly apply and exhibit its video evidence before the court. Thereafter the EFCC will reply respond.