By Danjuma Aliyu
A court hearing the case of money laundering against a former first lady of Nigeria has adjourned the matter until March 26.
Dame Patience Jonathan, speculated to be the owner of Air peace and an hotel in Bayelsa, is fighting to recover monetary gifts seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, a special aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan argued that over $15 million was given to Dame Jonathan as gift.
In a statement he filed on oath before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Mr Dudafa, said that to avoid breaking the law, Mrs Jonathan actually got in touch with an EFCC boss, who directed her on how to keep the money safe.
Ibrahim Lamorde, former chairman of the EFCC is said to have advised the former first lady “on how best to keep the funds referred to above, without running afoul of the law on financial crime.”
Mr Dudafa said: “On several occasions, during the time I served has the Special Assistant to the then President, several visitors to the State House used to bring cash gifts to the then First Lady to my knowledge.”
He noted that to safeguard the money, Mrs Jonathan got in touch with Mr Lamorde and as domestic aide to the first family, he was invited to a meeting with all those involved.
Mr Dudafa adds: “Consequently, I was then invited to a meeting between myself, the then chairman of the EFCC Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde and the plaintiff at the Presidential villa, where Mr Lamorde advised and recommended that personal and corporate accounts be opened for the purpose of safeguarding the plaintiff’s money to enable her foot her medical bills and other sundry personal needs whenever she travels abroad.
“Sequel to the advice given to the plaintiff by Ibrahim Lamorde, the plaintiff instructed me to coordinate the opening of the accounts for herself and her family members.
“In carrying out the said plaintiff’s instructions, I contacted one Sompre Omeibi, a reputable business man from the private sector to assist in safe guarding the funds.
“Sequel to the directives of Sompre Omiebi, the officials of Skye Bank brought to the plaintiff in my presence five Automated Teller Machine cards (ATM) for her use.
“I got in touch with Sompre Omeibi and the bank and requested that the names on the mandates should be changed to make the Plaintiff the sole signatory.
“Consequently, Mr. Oladipo Oshodi, an official of the bank, got in touch with the plaintiff, pleaded with her to use the cards whilst he would make necessary arrangements to effect the changes as soon as possible.
“I know as a fact that the bank and Dipo Oshodi are fully aware that the sums of money in the said accounts belong solely to the plaintiff.
“I know as a fact that the plaintiff is the owner of the funds contained in the bank accounts of the third, fourth and fifth defendants (companies), notwithstanding the facts that the accounts bear their names,” Dudafa further states.
But, the EFCC on its part argues that the sum of $15.591 million belonging to Mrs Jonathan is “proceed of crime” and should be forfeited to the Federal Government.
The anti-graft commission states the there is no way the plaintiff, “could have genuinely earned the monies. She is the wife of the former president, a civil servant and a retired Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State. She does not run any profit and interest-yielding business venture to generate such money.
“Investigation conducted by the first defendant (EFCC) revealed that the plaintiff is not the owner of the funds in the accounts of the third to fifth defendants (companies), which funds were discovered to be proceeds of fraudulent activities of Dudafa.”