Counsel to the first defendant in charge, with case number FHC/337C/16, Mr. Gboyega Oduwole, informed the court that Mrs. Jonathan filed a fundamental application against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), claiming ownership of the money.
The EFCC had taken former presidential aide, Amajuoyi Azubike Briggs, former Skye Bank official, Damola Bolodeoku, Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited to court in an alleged $31.4 million fraud involving the companies without addresses.
Others also charged include Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited, Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited and Globus Integrated Services Limited.
According to an application filed on September 6, this year, with file number FHC/L/C5/1233/16, Mrs. Jonathan is asking the court to make an order for the enforcement of her fundamental rights, in terms of reliefs she sought, and naming as defendants, the EFCC and Skye Bank Plc.
The former first lady asked the court to make a declaration that the fund standing to the credit of four of the companies and an account in her own name in Skye Bank belonged to her.
She also asked the court to declare that the action of the respondents in placing a No Debit/Freezing Order on the said accounts without any order of a competent court of law or prior notice to her, to be in breach of her fundamental rights as contained in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Meanwhile,the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has traced an additional $5m to the Skye Bank account of Dame Patience Jonathan, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
This brings to $20m the total amount so far traced to the former first lady.
As part of investigations into a money laundering case against a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Jonathan, Waripamowei Dudafa, the EFCC had traced four company accounts to him with a balance of $15m.
The EFCC subsequently charged Dudafa and the four companies with money laundering.
The four companies, whose accounts have since been frozen, are Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited.
A source at the EFCC said, “While we were investigating Dudafa, we traced the four companies to him. The companies have domiciliary accounts at Skye Bank with a balance of about $15m. So, we obtained a court order and froze the accounts.
“We then traced the directors of the companies who then denied ownership of the accounts. It was later that we were informed that the accounts belonged to Patience Jonathan and that she is the sole signatory to the accounts. She was given a special card which she used in making withdrawals across the world.
“We, therefore, wondered why the accounts were not opened in her name if she had nothing to hide. In fact, we later found out that her personal account, which bears her name, has a balance of $5m. One wonders where a person, who has never held a government position, got the money from. She was not our initial target but she certainly has questions to answer.”
Jonathan’s wife has, however, sued Skye Bank for freezing her bank accounts and giving the EFCC vital information about her finances.
Patience filed a N200m fundamental rights enforcement suit against Skye Bank Plc.
One Sammie Somiari, who deposed to an affidavit on behalf of Patience, claimed that the EFCC placed a No Debit Order on the four accounts in July, in the course of probing Dudafa.
The EFCC has now filed an amended 17 counts against Dudafa and seven others, including the four companies, wherein the suspects were accused of conspiring to conceal $15,591,700, which the EFCC claimed they ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.
Somiari said in the affidavit filed on behalf of Patience, who is said to be away for an urgent medical treatment abroad, that it was Dudafa who helped Patience open the four bank accounts which the EFCC froze.
According to him, Dudafa had on March 22, 2010 brought two Skye Bank officers, Demola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi, to meet Patience at home to open five accounts.
The deponent claimed that Patience was the sole signatory to the accounts.
He, however, claimed that after the five accounts were opened, Patience later discovered that Dudafa opened only one of the accounts in her name, while the other four were opened in the names of companies belonging to Dudafa.
Somiari added, “The applicant (Patience) complained about this to Dudafa, who at his prompting and instance promised to effect the change of the said accounts to the applicant’s name; and to effect this change, Dudafa brought the said bank manager, Mr. Dipo Oshodi, who was purported to have effected the changes. This was about April 2014.
“The applicant is not a director, shareholder or participant in the companies named in the aforementioned four accounts.
“The bank official, Mr. Dipo Oshodi, as it would appear, did not effect or reflect the instruction of the applicant to change the said accounts to her name(s) despite repeated requests of the applicant.
“Besides, the ATM credit cards bearing the said companies’ names were brought to the applicant by Mr. Dipo Oshodi of the second respondent bank, who promised to replace them once the cards bearing the changed names were available, but he never did.
“However, since 2010 up until 2014 and thereafter, the applicant had been using the cards on the said accounts and operating the said accounts without let or hindrance.
“Even in May, June and July 2016, the applicant travelled overseas for medical treatment and was using the said credit cards abroad up until July 7, 2016 or thereabout when the cards stopped functioning.”
In her fundamental rights suit, Patience is urging the court to compel the EFCC to immediately remove the No Debit Order placed on her accounts.
She also wants the court to order Skye Bank to pay her damages in the sum of N200m for what she termed a violation of her right to own personal property under Section 44 of the Constitution.
However, the EFCC is in moves to arraign Dudafa and his alleged accomplices for money laundering before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Further proceedings in the case has been adjourned until September 15.
However, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), has said with the fresh admission by Patience that she owns the accounts, the EFCC has the right to probe her.
Sagay told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the Act establishing the EFCC gave the anti-graft agency the power to investigate anybody who is seen to have more wealth than he ought to have.
The senior advocate wondered how Patience, who was a civil servant and never held any government position, could have billions in her bank accounts.
He said, “The EFCC and ICPC Act have provisions under which they can ask the court to freeze the account of a person if a person’s capacity to earn is below the amount of money that the person appears to have.
“If you are living a lavish lifestyle and it appears you don’t have the means to have acquired the property and the wealth you have, the EFCC is free to probe you.
“If she is claiming the money belongs to her, she has put herself in a position where she must explain how she earned it.”
Attempts to get the comments of the wife of the former president were not successful.
Repeated calls and a text message sent to the Media Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Ikechukwu Eze, were also not responded to as of 8:45pm on Saturday.
Addditional Report: Sunday Punch