Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday refused an oral application moved by the counsel to the former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, seeking to restrain another judge of the court, Justice Babs Kuewumi, from taking further steps on the frozen $15.591million she claims belongs to her.
The former first lady’s lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe had urged the court to stop Justice Kuewumi, from making any order forfeiting the $15.591 million, which was frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to the federal government until the determination of an interlocutory application filed by her client.
Mrs. Jonathan is claiming the sum of $200 million against the EFCC, Skye Bank Plc, a former special assistant to ex president Jonathan, Waripama-Owei Dudafa and four others for what she described as the inconveniences and embarrassment she suffered as a result of the freezing of her accounts.
Also joined in the fundamental rights enforcement suit are: Pluto Property and Investment company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd, Transocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Globus Integrated Service Ltd.
The four companies, which the EFCC claimed were used by Dudafa to launder the $15.591 million had pleaded guilty to the offence of money laundering before Justice Kuewumi.
The sum involved in the criminal case is the same money which former first lady claimed belongs to her as the sole signatory to the accounts of the companies.
She, however, denied ownership of the companies.
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, the judge acknowledge a letter from the counsel representing Skye Bank, Lanre Ogunlesi, stating that he was indisposed and would not be able to come to court.
According to the judge, since Ogunlesi requested for a new date to enable him appear in court, the hearing of the application on notice cannot go on.
But before the court could adjourned case, Adedipe urged the court to direct the EFCC not to temper with the res (subject matter) of the case pending the hearing and determination of the interlocutory application.
However, counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the application, submitting that the accounts that house the money had been long frozen, while the identified directors to these companies had pleaded guilty to an offence of conspiracy and money laundering in an ongoing criminal trial before Justice Kuewumi.
Oyedepo said: “We pray the court to dismiss the application with a wave of hand. There was an order of the court that have convicted the 4th-7th defendants for warehousing the proceed of crime.”
The lawyer further argued that the applicant does not have the locus-standi to move the motion and that if the court grants the order, it would be “extremely” prejudicial to the earlier order made by Justice Kuewumi in the criminal case.
He also expressed doubts on the address that the applicant sent the service of the originating summon on 4th -7th defendants, as earlier investigation conducted by the anti-graft agency showed that the companies have fictitious addresses.
Justice Idris, in a short ruling, held that he cannot go into the merits or demerits of the interlocutory application until it is moved.
He, however, ordered accelerated hearing of the case, while stating that he cannot make any order that would be prejudicial to the outcome of the main suit.
The judge then adjourned the case till December 7, 2016, for hearing of the main application.
The ex first lady in her suit is urging the court to issue an order discharging the freezing order, and restrain the EFCC and it’s agent from further placing a freezing order on the said accounts.
In an affidavit in support deposed to by one Sammie Somiari, a legal practitioner, he averred that on March 22, 2010, she (Jonathan) had opened five different accounts with Skye Bank, with the aid of one Damola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi.
He 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 the 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 name of the said accounts to her name, in spite of repeated request.
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 avers that sometimes in July, Jonathan discovered that the ATM cards were not functioning, and immediately contacted the bank who informed her that a “No debit/freezing order” have 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 investigation 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 stated that the freezing order on her funds by the directive of EFCC without an order of the court is unlawful and illegal.
Consequently, Mrs Jonathan is seeking an order of court, directing the unfreezing of her account forthwith.
She also wants an order restraining the EFCC from taking further steps in relation to the said account pending the determination of the suit.