By Eniola Akinkuotu
ABUJA – Dame Patience Jonathan, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, may forfeit to the Federal Government, a N10bn hotel allegedly belonging to her if she fails to explain how she came about some funds allegedly traced to her accounts.
“This is one of the questions she may have to answer as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission continues investigation into the $20m found in five accounts she has laid claim to,” a source told our correspondent on Monday.
The hotel, which is known as Aridolf Resort Wellness and Spa, Yenagoa, was inaugurated by Patience in April 2015, barely a month before the end of her husband’s tenure.
According to a UK business newspaper, The Financial Times, the hotel, which has imported state-of-the-art furniture, can compete with other luxury hotels in developed countries.
The report dated April 21, 2015, states in part, “The Aridolf Hotel in Yenagoa is an unlikely monument to kitsch on a reclaimed swamp in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta. In the lobby, Louis XIV furniture is accompanied by bowls of plastic fruit, faux Dutch landscapes and a grotesquely gaudy chandelier. The hotel is redolent of the riches on display in a region that for half a century has generated the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth.
“The Aridolf, which is owned by Patience Jonathan, wife of the former President, is symptomatic of how superficial progress has been in addressing the festering sense of marginalisation in the region, which remains desperately impoverished despite benefiting from a tide of petrodollars in recent years.”
The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, told our correspondent that the EFCC had the right to investigate anybody who was living above his or her means.
He said anybody, who failed to do so, could risk forfeiture of properties believed to have been obtained through stolen funds or could lose funds traced to him or her.
Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, wondered how Patience, who was a civil servant and never held any government position, could have billions in her bank accounts.
He said, “The EFCC and ICPC Acts have provisions under which they can ask the court to freeze the account of a person if a person’s capacity to earn is below the amount of money that the person appears to have.
“If you are living a lavish lifestyle and it appears you don’t have the means to have acquired the property and the wealth you have, the EFCC is free to probe you.”
Patience recently sued Skye Bank and the EFCC for freezing four company accounts which have a balance of $15m.
The former first lady also has another account with the title, ‘Patience Ibifaka Jonathan’ which has a balance of $5m. The account is, however, still active.
The PUNCH had reported that four of the accounts belonged to Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited.
The anti-graft commission believed that a former Special Adviser to the President on Domestic Affairs, Waripamowei Dudafa, forged the identities of his domestic servants to open the four accounts while the fifth account was opened in the name of Patience.
The domestic servants were, however, denied access to the accounts while a platinum card was issued to Patience.
The EFCC froze the accounts of the four companies which were initially believed to be owned by Dudafa until Patience stated last week that the four accounts belonged to her.
The EFCC is set to arraign Dudafa and some bank officials for alleged fraud.
However, Mr. Joseph Okobieme, the lawyer to Demola Bolodeoku, one of the bank officials, said his client did not take part in forging the signatures of the domestic servants/directors.
He said, “I don’t know why he was included in the charge. He has no business in this transaction. He was merely doing his job as a banker. The allegation they levelled against him was not that he benefitted from the proceeds of the alleged transaction.
“There is a mere allegation of forgery of certain documents which are not within his power to have forged because he is not a director of the company.
“These four companies were duly registered by the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) with the names and the directors on record. So, if they say the names of these directors were forged, it is not possible for my client to have forged them. Clearly, he was not the author of the documents.”
He believed that the four domestic servants should be charged by the EFCC as well.