Crowd of hired women from the Niger Delta yesterday stormed the Federal High Court in Lagos to protest the seizure of some money belonging former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience.
Mrs Jonathan sued the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Skye Bank over the freezing of her bank accounts.
She is demanding ₦200million damages in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, which came up before Justice Babs Kuewumi yesterday.
Mrs Jonathan said four of her frozen accounts with Skye Bank in the name of four companies have a balance of $15, 591,700 (about ₦5billion).
The companies had, on September 15, pleaded guilty to laundering the money.
They are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd (represented by Taiwo Ebenezer).
EFCC arraigned the companies alongwith a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku, however, pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
The more than 100 women demanded the unfreezing of the accounts. Dressed in native attires of “buba and wrapper” with head gear to match, they sang in Ijaw and English.
They bore placards, some of which had inscriptions, such as: “Ijaw people are in solidarity with Jonathan”; “Unfreeze ex-president Jonathan’s wife’s account”; “We urge EFCC to abide by the rule of law” and “Women must be heard”.
Some of the women said they wondered whether it had become a crime for a woman to be rich in Nigeria.
They said Mrs Jonathan should be left alone to enjoy her “hard-earned money”.
According to them, “Mama Peace” was a hard working woman and well-to-do in her own right despite being married to a former president.
They marched towards EFCC’s vehicle as the prosecution team made to leave, singing and displaying their placards.
Many of the women said the former first lady was being victimised by the government.
The crowd remained in the court even after the case despite efforts by security operatives to usher them out.
EFCC’s lawyer Mr Rotimi Oyedepo told Justice Kuewumi that the matter was coming up for the first time. He said some of the respondents had not been served with the court’s processes. According to him, the matter was not yet “ripe for hearing”.
He said the EFCC was served with the suit on October 19 and yet to file its response, adding that the time for the commission to respond had not lapsed.
Mrs Jonathan’s counsel, Mr Granville Abbibo (SAN), urged the court to restrain EFCC from interfering with the accounts. He added that despite the service of the suit on EFCC, the agency was taking steps to undermine the court process.
Oyedepo said the account was frozen before the suit was filed; therefore, the issue of interference does not arise.
In a supporting affidavit to the suit, Mrs Jonathan’s aide, Sammie Somiari, said Dudafa helped the former first lady to open the four accounts.
He said Dudafa, on March 22, 2010 brought two Skye Bank officers, Demola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi, to meet Mrs Jonathan at home to open five accounts.
The deponent claimed Mrs Jonathan was the sole signatory to the accounts. He said after the five accounts were opened, Mrs Jonathan 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.
The deponent said Mrs Jonathan continued to operate the accounts even though they were not opened in her name.
Somiari said: “The applicant (Mrs Jonathan) complained about this to Honourable 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, Honourable Dudafa brought the said bank manager, Mr. Dipo Oshodi, who 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 thereabouts when the cards stopped functioning.”
In her fundamental rights action, Mrs Jonathan is urging the court to compel the EFCC to immediately remove the “No Debit Order” placed on her accounts.
She is urging the court to order Skye Bank to pay her ₦200m for what she termed a violation of her right to own personal property under Section 44 of the Constitution.
Justice Kuewumi adjourned the hearing until December 7 .