'Release My Money, No One Complained I Stole Theirs' – Patience Jonathan Tells Court

Former Nigeria’s First Lady Patience Jonathan, has told a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos that no one has complained that she stole their money.

The former First Lady asked the court to order the release of the $5.7m and N2.4bn seized from her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Lawyer to Mrs Jonathan, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), urged Justice Mojisola Olatoregun to dismiss the application by the EFCC.

The EFCC is asking the court to permanently forfeit the money to the Federal Government.

According to Adedipe, it was not right for the anti-graft agency to regard the money as the proceeds of crime, when the former President’s wife had committed no crime.

The lawyer pointed out that Patience received the money as a gift when her husband was in office.

He added, “It is not the law that if the EFCC finds money in an account and it doesn’t like the owner’s face, it comes to court and says ‘forfeit it.

“The government is at liberty to apply for forfeiture but the offence must be stated.”

The senior lawyer told the court that there was no justification for the money to be forfeited to the Federal Government since the anti-corruption body had not proved that the former President’s wife stole money from the government or any individual.

“All that the EFCC said was that they saw money in her account and assumed it was stolen. They didn’t say from who,” he said.

Also, a frontline human rights and constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), appearing for La Wari Furniture and Baths, whose accounts were also frozen, told the court that the N2.4bn found in his clients’ accounts was legitimate.

He said, “It is settled law that suspicion, no matter how grave, can never amount to legal evidence to prove the guilt or culpability of anyone either in criminal or civil proceedings.

“They have not brought anybody to complain that money is missing. It is not a crime that La Wari Furniture and Baths had made money.’’

However, the EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, contended that the money was the proceeds of crime.

He said, “The $5m was not the first respondent’s (Patience’s) legitimate earnings. She was a public servant and a salary earner. The sums cannot be her legitimate income.

“We urge the court to agree with us and forfeit the sum to the Federal Government.”

He said the bank account in which the N2.4bn was found “was shrouded in mystery and fraud”.

Oyedepo said that when questioned by the EFCC, a director of La Wari Furniture and Baths, Mrs Oyewole Yemisi, claimed not to know anything about the company and that her signature was forged.

The matter was adjourned until June 24 for judgement.
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