The Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed March 6 for further hearing in a suit filed by former first lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, to de-freeze her $15.5 million domiciled with Skye Bank.
The fundamental rights enforcement suit was filed against the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) by Mrs. Jonathan. The money was frozen by the bank on the directive of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The respondents in the suite are the EFCC, Skye Bank, a former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Warampo-Owei Dudafa and 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 the resumed hearing, counsel representing the companies, Mr Jeff Kadiri, told the court that he had just been briefed and would need time to file the necessary processes. In a response, counsel to Patience, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), informed the court that he had served his processes on all parties in the matter and was prepared to proceed with the case. He was, however, not opposed to Kadiri’s request for adjournment. In the absence of opposition by lawyers to the other respondents, the judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, adjourned further hearing in the matter to March 6.
The four companies which the EFCC claimed were used by Dudafa to launder the $15.5 million had pleaded guilty in a criminal case before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the same court. The sum involved in the criminal case was the same money the former first lady had claimed belonged to her as the sole signatory to the accounts of the companies. She, however, denied ownership of the companies. Patience in her suit was urging the court to issue an order discharging the freezing order. She equally sought for an order restraining the EFCC and its agent from further placing a freezing order on the said accounts.
In an affidavit deposed to by a lawyer, Sammie Somiari, it was averred that on March 22, 2010, Mrs Jonathan had opened five different accounts with the 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, Patience 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. He said Dipo Oshodi also promised to effect the necessary changes. Somiari averred further that Patience was neither a director, shareholder nor a participant in these companies, but 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 which informed her that a “No debit/freezing order” had been placed on the accounts. He averred that on further inquiry, the bank informed her that the accounts were frozen on the directives of the EFCC as a result of an ongoing investigation in relation to Dudafa. Patience contended that she was neither arrested nor invited by EFCC prior to the freezing order placed on the accounts and as such the action was unlawful and illegal. She then sought the court’s order directing the unfreezing of her accounts forthwith.
Patience also sought an order restraining the EFCC from taking further steps in relation to the said account pending the determination of the suit.