Former first lady, Patience Jonathan, has described the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as a big thief for freezing her accounts with Skye Bank containing more than $15million in all.
Her lawyers, FirstLaw Solicitors, in a letter to EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, Dame Patience said it would be counter-productive if she is arrested and prosecuted based on suspicion.
She also urged the EFCC to de-freeze her accounts within 14 days with a public apology otherwise she would file an action at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights at The Gambia demanding five billion naira in exemplary and punitive damages.
Recall that Patience has been mentioned in an EFCC investigation regarding alleged money laundering though four companies whose Directors are the domestic workers of Waripamowei Dudafa, Jonathan’s Special Adviser on domestic affairs.
Below are various views regarding the development so far. Views were gathered by Punch.
- Adegboyega Awomolo (A Senior Advocate of Nigeria)
The fact as presented in the media is that certain companies were accused of violating the Money Laundering Prohibition Act. The companies and their directors were arrested and charged to court. These companies and their directors were arraigned before a court that has jurisdiction. The charges were read to them and they claimed to have understood the charges. They voluntarily pleaded guilty. The court properly and lawfully convicted them. Until the judgment is set aside on appeal, it would remain forever.
In the eyes of the law, all the proceeds of the crime have been lawfully forfeited to the state.
The claim by Mrs. Jonathan to the ownership of the money already forfeited to the state is of no consequence since she did not appear before the court as a defendant. She has no locus standi in the criminal proceedings. She did not volunteer to be joined to the suspects.
She can maintain an action if she can prove the ownership of the money against the people she gave it to. The prosecuting authority owed her no obligation and neither can she maintain any claim against the state. We must separate sentiments, emotions, sympathy or political consideration from the due process of the law.
Mrs. Jonathan, in my view, should hold her peace as her outburst may implicate her as a conspirator or raise a call for her prosecution.
The law is no respecter of any person as we are all equal before the law. She never enjoyed any immunity and even if did, she is now an ordinary Nigerian that must answer questions on her conduct.
- Liborous Oshoma (Human rights lawyer)
What should bother Nigerians now is how to raise the bar. This is the time to begin to ask questions from our political office holders, past and present, and their relations who are living above their means. We should ask them to declare the source(s) of wealth. Where there is no satisfactory explanation as to the source(s) of a suspect’s assets, the suspect should be made to forfeit the wealth to the state. The proceeds of such an illicit wealth should be used for infrastructural and industrial development.
It is against this backdrop that I would urge the EFCC and the Federal Government to give Mrs. Patience Jonathan an opportunity to explain the source(s) of the $15m she claimed belongs to her. She should also be able to explain why the money is in accounts she is not a signatory to.
It is not enough for Mrs. Jonathan’s lawyer to depose to an affidavit stating that she is the owner of the money. She should be able to supply further information explaining the source(s) of the money.
Where she is unable to satisfactorily explain how she legitimately earned the money, the money should be treated like the late Sani Abacha loot. It should be forfeited to the state.
- Yinka Ilori (An educationist)
Patience Jonathan should forfeit the money because Nigeria needs the money more than she does. Why would she open the accounts in the names of her aides if the money was legitimate? She later said that the money was meant to settle medical bills. I don’t think Nigerians would be fooled by her lies. She has to forfeit the money to the country.
Every other individual, whether past or current leader, that stole from the public treasury should be made to face the penalty. Such money should be forfeited to the government.
- Adebimpe Odusi (An official of the University of Lagos)
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should investigate the source of the money before recovering the money from Mrs. Patience Jonathan. The EFCC should listen to her defence first. Really, the money is huge but she remains innocent until the otherwise is proved.
I think the EFCC should follow due process. If she is found guilty, she should forfeit the money. Being the wife of a former President should not make her untouchable. After all, nobody is above the law.
- Adekunle Ojo (A former Vice-President, Nigerian Bar Association)
The fact is that the matter is in court. I am aware that the companies in whose accounts the money was kept pleaded guilty. That means the money is the proceeds of illicit activities. Those recognised by the law as the owners of the money have been charged to court.
The claim by Mrs. Jonathan that the money belongs to her is neither here nor there. This is because the money was not found in her account. For anybody to claim ownership of such money means that the person is encouraging a criminal act.
The only thing the wife of the former President could do now to help herself is to submit herself to the court to be tried along with the other indicted people. The accounts have been frozen. If Mrs. Jonathan truly wants the money released to her, she has to prove that the money is legitimate.
The question as to whether she would forfeit the money does not even arise because she has already forfeited it. That position can only be reversed if she proves that the money was legally acquired.
- Idris Miliki (Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution)
The natural thing to do is to carry out a thorough investigation into the accounts and the source(s) of the money. The public should know the source(s) of the money. However, it is obvious that it is stolen money.
The office Mrs. Patience Jonathan ran when her husband was President is not known to the constitution. So, she did not earn legitimate money both when her husband was a governor and when he was the President. She should be charged to court after which the proper thing should be done.
What the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has done so far is in the right direction. If one cannot explain the source(s) of one’s money, such money should be frozen while investigation is still on. The good thing now is that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is no longer in power. So, there is no fear that there would be a cover-up.
Mrs. Jonathan has to go to court to prove the source(s) of the money. We have heard of complaints that women are being marginalised. Where are the feminists now that a woman is linked to corruption? The feminists are now keeping quiet. They need to speak out and condemn the act.
It may take a long time but we must ensure that the case is followed up to a logical conclusion. My problem is that those who steal money do not follow the due process. But when they are caught, lawyers would be screaming ‘due process’ and ‘rule of law’. That is after they must have collected huge money.
- Ahmad Adetola-Kazeem (Human rights lawyer)
It is unfortunate, though not surprising, that such a huge amount was linked to Mrs. Patience Jonathan. The corruption and wanton theft witnessed during the last administration was monumental, and I believe the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is still scratching the surface.
She should be made to forfeit the stolen sum in compliance with the provisions of the law. The EFCC should ensure that the provisions of sections 26 to 33 of its Act on forfeiture and confiscation of assets are strictly followed. The EFCC should make the necessary application to the Federal High Court with the evidence at its disposal.
I also suggest that Mrs. Jonathan be prosecuted and made to face the consequences of her actions if found guilty.