Nigeria’s former first lady Patience Jonathan has revealed that it took her 15 years to save up the $15million dollars that has now been frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
This was contained in court papers filed by a group that has sued Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on her behalf.
SERAP had filed a suit in court to compel the attorney-general of the Federation to take a legal action against Mrs. Jonathan.
In September, it emerged that Mrs. Jonathan was the subject of an EFCC investigation regarding the source of the money, but she maintained innocence — even though the four individuals representing the companies linked with the alleged laundering had pleaded guilty to the charge in court.
The companies – Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Limited; Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Development Company Limited – pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder $15 million.
Directors of the companies are domestic workers of Waripamowei Dudafa, Jonathan’s special adviser on domestic affairs.
Patience had previously clarified that the $15m was for her foreign medical bills and other private expenses, and even branded the EFCC a big thief for going after her money.
But in a suit filed on her behalf against SERAP, which had earlier given the federal government a seven-day ultimatum to prosecute her, Patience explained that she got the money from gifts from people she could not even remember, over a 15-year period.
“There has been a running battle between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Mrs Jonathan with respect to the release of her legitimately earned funds which were deposited in accounts opened in the names of certain companies by one of her husband’s aides without her authorization,” her attorneys had written to the court, according to SERAP.
“The funds in question were legitimate gifts from her friends and well-wishers over the last 15 years, which she had been saving in order to utilize to upgrade family businesses and concerns, which had been somewhat dormant by reason of the long period of her husband service as a public officer in Nigeria.
“The gifts were given in small contributions by several persons, some of whom she cannot even now recall over this period of 15 years sometimes in as small a gift as N250,000 Naira. In order to preserve the value of these funds, which she did not require for any purpose at the time, she changed them into foreign exchange and kept them as cash for a long period in her home safe in Port Harcourt and Abuja.
“It was when the family home in Otuoke was burnt down by hoodlums under the instigation of political adversaries in 2010 that she began to think about banking these gifts, which had now grown to large sums in United States Dollars. In 2010, she therefore summoned one of her husband’s domestic aids, Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel Dudafa to assist her in opening bank accounts into which the funds could be deposited.
“Unknown to her, the said Dudafa, in a bid to be discreet about the owner of the funds, decided to bank the funds in the names of companies owned by him. When she discovered this, she was constrained to continue with the names of the companies when she was advised that it did not make any difference as to the ownership of the funds since the director of the company would appoint her as sole signatory to the accounts in question.”
Patience explained that when Dudafa was arrested in 2016 and detained, she had no fear for the funds, as she realised that the funds could not be attributable to him once it was discovered that she was the sole signatory to the said accounts.
“It was therefore a rude shock to her when she discovered that a no transaction order had been placed on the accounts by the EFCC in the belief that the funds belonged to Dudafa,” she added.
“She instructed her solicitors to further write to the EFCC to inform them that the funds belong to her and that they formed a part of her legitimate earnings over the last 15 years. It was this letter that was leaked by the EFCC to the media that became sensationalized and led to the plaintiff’s vilification and attack by ignorant persons who had no information about the matter.”
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