The Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal of the defence team led by renowned lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) on behalf of former first lady, Patience Jonathan. In a statement released by EFCC, it confirmed the forfeiture of $5.8m and another N2.4b.
The statement reads: “The Court of Appeal in Lagos has upheld the order of interim forfeiture of $5,842,316.66 and N2,421,953,522.78 traced to the accounts of Patience Jonathan, ex-First Lady, and dismissed the appeal by defence team led by Mike Ozekhome, SAN.”
The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, made the judgement on Friday.
It upheld the decision of the Federal High Court in Lagos, which had earlier ordered the interim forfeiture of a sum of monies found in her Skye Bank account.
The appellate court, in a lead judgment by Justice Mojeed Owoade, threw out the ex-President’s wife’s appeal challenging the forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government. According to the court, the appeal lacked merit.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos had, in April last year, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission argued that the money was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of fraud.
Apart from Patience’s personal account with $5.9m, the judge also froze a number of accounts linked with her including an Ecobank account with a balance of N2.4bn opened in the name of one La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited.
But efforts to secure an order for the permanent forfeiture of the money was opposed by Patience, through her lawyer, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN).
Also, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), on behalf of La Wari Furniture and Bath Limited, opposed the permanent forfeiture of the funds in its client’s account.
The two lawyers subsequently went on appeal, seeking to overturn the temporary forfeiture order and recover the funds. But the appellate court has dealt a major blow on their appeal by dismissing their appeals.
The EFCC had, in an affidavit it filed before Justice Olatoregun, said its investigation revealed that Patience opened the Skye Bank account on February 7, 2013, and used it to allegedly “warehouse proceeds of crime.”
According to an operative of the EFCC, Musbahu Abubakar, the former first lady made several cash deposits in United States dollar into the account, through a former Special Assistant to ex-President Jonathan, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa; and a State House steward, Festus Iyoha.
He said as of January 30, 2015, the Skye Bank account had a balance of $6.7m, but Patience subsequently withdrew it down to $5.9m.
The EFCC had prayed the court to urgently freeze the account so as to prevent Patience from moving the funds. A decision the court has now granted.