Controversial $15.5m: Court adjourns Dame Jonathan suit till March 16

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Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned further hearing in a suit filed by former first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, to challenge the frozen of her $15.5 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to March 6.

Mrs. Jonathan, in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, is seeking an order to de-freeze the accounts where the money is domiciled, so that she can have access to it.

Respondents in the suit are; the EFCC, Skye Bank, former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Dr Waripamo-Owei and the four companies.

The companies are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd, Transocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Globus Integrated Service Ltd.

At Monday’s proceedings, lawyer representing the companies, Jeff Kadiri, informed the court that he has just been briefed and will need time to file the necessary process.

Patience Jonathan’s lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), had while expressing his readiness to proceed with the matter informed the court that he had served his processes on all parties in the matter.

The counsel was however not opposed to Kadiri’s request for adjournment saying it is in order.

In the absence of opposition by lawyers to the other respondents, the judge adjourned further hearing in the matter to March 6.

The four companies; Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd, Transocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Globus Integrated Service Ltd, which the EFCC claimed was used by Dudafa to launder the $15.591 million, had pleaded guilty to the offence of money laundering before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the same court.

The sum involved in the criminal case is the same money the former first lady claimed belonged to her as the sole signatory to the accounts of the companies. She, however, denied ownership of the companies.

The former first lady in her suit is urging the court to issue an order discharging the freezing order. She equally want an order restraining the EFCC and its agent from further placing a freezing order on the said accounts.

In an affidavit in support deposed to by a lawyer, Sammie Somiari, it was averred that on March 22, 2010, Mrs Jonathan had opened five different accounts with Skye bank, with the aid of two officials of the bank, Damola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi.

It was further averred that the account mandate forms were duly completed and signed by her.

According to the deponent, Mrs Jonathan subsequently discovered that apart from one of the accounts that bore her name, the other four accounts were opened in the name of four companies belonging to Dudafa.

He also averred that she also observed that the ATM cards of the said accounts were issued in the names of the companies, adding that she complained to Dudafa who promised to effect the necessary changes.

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He said Dipo Oshodi also promised to effect the necessary changes.

Somiari averred further that Mrs Jonathan is not a director, shareholder or participant in these companies and the funds in the said accounts were solely owned and operated by her.

According to the deponent, the Skye bank official, (Oshodi), did not carry out the instructions of the plaintiff to change the name of the said accounts to her name, despite repeated request.

He averred that notwithstanding the refusal of the bank to effect the necessary changes, she had been using the said ATM cards without any interference.

The deponent averred that sometimes in July 2016, Jonathan discovered that the ATM cards were not functioning, and immediately contacted the bank who informed her that a “No debit/freezing order” have been placed on the accounts.

He averred that on further enquiry, the bank informed her that the accounts were frozen on the directive of the EFCC as a result of an ongoing investigation in relation to Dudafa.

The former first lady therefore contended that she was neither arrested nor invited by EFCC prior to the freezing order placed on the accounts and as such the action is unlawful and illegal.

Consequently, she is seeking an order of court, directing the unfreezing of her account forthwith.

She also wants an order restraining the EFCC from taking further steps in relation to the said account pending the determination of the suit.

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