Ijaw Women Besiege Court, Want EFCC to Unfreeze Mrs Jonathan’s Account

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Davidson Iriekpen

Over 100 Ijaw women wednesday besieged the Federal High Court in Lagos to show solidarity with the former first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, whose suit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) came up before Justice Babs Kuewumi.

In the suit, Mrs. Jonathan is seeking to unfreeze her accounts.

The women stormed the court premises, chanting songs of protest, calling for the former first lady’s accounts to be unfrozen.

The respondents in the suit are the EFCC, Skye Bank Plc, and a former Special Assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripama-Owei Dudafa.

Also joined in the suit are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Transocean Property and Investment Company Limited, and Globus Integrated Service Limited.

The former first lady is demanding the sum of $200 million from the commission as damages for infringing on her rights.

She is also urging the court to issue an order discharging the freezing order, and to restrain the EFCC and its agents from further placing a freezing order on the said accounts.

When the case was called yesterday, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo announced his appearance for the EFCC, while Mr. Granville Abibo (SAN) announced his appearance for Mrs. Jonathan.

Addressing the court, Oyedepo informed the judge that the matter was coming up for the first time, adding that some of the respondents were yet to be served with the court’s processes.

He submitted that the matter was not yet “ripe for hearing”, having been served with the processes on October 19 and was yet to file a response.

The submission was not contested by counsel to the plaintiff.

Consequently, Justice Kuewumi fixed December 7 for hearing of the case.

In an affidavit in support of the suit deposed to by one Sammie Somiari, a legal practitioner, he averred that on March 22, 2010, she (Mrs. Jonathan) had opened five different accounts with Skye Bank, with the aid of one Damola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi.

He also averred that the account mandate forms were duly completed and signed by her.

According to him, Mrs. Jonathan subsequently discovered that apart from one of the accounts that bore her name, the other four accounts were opened in the name of four companies which were companies belonging to Dudafa.

He averred that she also observed that the ATM cards of the said accounts were issued in the names of the companies, adding that she complained to Dudafa who promised to effect the necessary changes.

He said Dipo Oshodi also promised to effect the necessary changes.

Somiari averred further that Mrs. Jonathan is not a director, shareholder or participant in these companies and the funds in the said accounts were solely owned and operated by her.

He averred: “Dudafa does not own any part of the funds in the said accounts.”

According to the deponent, the Skye Bank official (Oshodi) did not effect the instructions of the plaintiff to change the names of the said accounts to her name, in spite of repeated requests.

He averred that notwithstanding the refusal of the bank to effect the necessary changes, she had been using the said ATM cards without any interference.

The deponent averred that sometime in July, Mrs. Jonathan discovered that the ATM cards were not functioning, and immediately contacted the bank, which informed her that a “no debit/freezing order” had been placed on the accounts.

He averred that on further enquiry, the bank informed her that the accounts were frozen on the directive of EFCC as a result of ongoing investigations in relation to Dudafa.

Mrs. Jonathan therefore contended that she was never arrested or invited by EFCC prior to the freezing order placed on the accounts.

She further contended that the freezing order on her funds based on the directive of EFCC without an order of the court was unlawful and illegal.

Consequently, Mrs. Jonathan sought an order of the court directing the unfreezing of her account forthwith.

She is also demanding an order restraining the EFCC from taking further steps in relation to the said account, pending the determination of the suit.

The Ijaw women, who were dressed in traditional attires, stormed the court chanting songs in Ijaw and English languages with several placards with numerous inscriptions.

Some of the inscriptions read: “Ijaw people are in solidarity with Jonathan”, “Unfreeze ex-president Jonathan’s wife’s account”, “We urge EFCC to abide by the rule of law”, and “Women must be heard.”

Some of the women expressed loudly their concern over the enforcement of women’s rights as well as those of the ex-first lady.

Immediately after the court rose, they trooped to a vehicle provided by Mrs. Jonathan’s team, chanting songs of solidarity and boldly displaying their placards.