Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Federal Government to the Federal High Court in Lagos asking the court for an order compelling the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) to institute criminal proceedings against former first lady Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts.
The organization is also asking the court “for such order or other orders as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.”
The suit with number FHC/L/CS/1318/2016 dated 23th September 2016 was filed on behalf of SERAP by Adetokunbo Mumuni. SERAP’s suit is coming against the background of the request last week by Mrs Jonathan for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to defreeze her accounts and offer her a public apology within 14-days.
SERAP’s suit brought under Order 34, Rules 1 (1) (a); 2, Rule 3 (1) and (2) (a), (b) and (c) of the Federal High Court Rules, 2009 and Inherent Jurisdiction of the Court reads in part: “The AGF has a duty to prosecute intentional illicit enrichment, that is, a significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.”
“By virtue of Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) the AGF is constitutionally empowered to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person in Nigeria in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National assembly in superior courts in Nigeria.”
SERAP said that the AGF has failed, neglected and or refused to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in her accounts.”
“Mrs. Jonathan is a politically exposed person under anticorruption standards. She is also covered under the definition of ‘public officials’ contained in the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. Under article 2 of the convention, public officials include Mrs. Jonathan or any other family members of the former President Goodluck Jonathan who exercised official duties while he was president.”
SERAP is asking for a declaration that the failure of the AGF to institute criminal proceedings against Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts is unconstitutional and unlawful as it contradicts and in conflict with the duties and obligations of the AGF under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000
It is also seeking anorder of mandamus compelling the AGF to urgently institute and undertake criminal proceedings against Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts.
Nigerian laws, according to SERAP, allow for criminal penalties and forfeiture if in the course of an investigation there are reasonable grounds to believe that a corruption offence has been committed, that is, the failure to explain the origin of the $15m given present or past emoluments, and other relevant circumstances.