Former Nigerian first lady and wife of ex President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on Friday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the release of the $5.7m and N2.4bn seized from her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Her lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), urged Justice Mojisola Olatoregun to dismiss the application by the EFCC, praying that the money be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Adedipe argued that it was wrong for the EFCC to regard the money as the proceeds of crime, when Patience had committed no crime and when nobody complained that their money was missing.
He said Patience received the money as a gift when her husband was in office.
Adedipe said such monetary gifts were normal.
He contended that Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud, which EFCC relied upon to seize Patience’s money, was only applicable to fraudsters.
He said, “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.’’
Adedipe said there was no justification for the money to be forfeited to the Federal Government since the EFCC had not proved that Patience 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.”
Also, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who appeared for La Wari Furniture and Baths, whose accounts were also frozen, said the N2.4bn found in his clients’ accounts was legitimate.
Ozekhome said the company was into the import and export of furniture.
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.’’
But counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, insisted 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”.
He added that a director of La Wari Furniture and Baths, Mrs Oyewole Yemisi, when questioned by the EFCC, claimed not to know anything about the company and that her signature was forged.
Justice Olatoregun adjourned until June 24 for judgment.