Nigerians have expressed outrage over the bid by former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, to reclaim the sum of $34.1 million (N13.31 billion) lodged in some bank accounts linked to her.
They demanded the prosecution of the ex-first lady and her husband, former President Goodluck Jonathan, over the matter.
The fund was trapped following the freezing of the accounts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the suspicion that they were proceeds of money laundering. The former first lady had dragged the EFCC and Skye Bank to court over the freezing of accounts allegedly belonging to the former presidential aide, Waripamo Dudafa.
According to her, the fund, which were lodged in business accounts opened in the name of Dudafa belonged to her. Former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, urged the EFCC to probe not just the former first lady, but also her husband, over the bank accounts.
Musa, who spoke with New Telegraph yesterday, said that while the former first lady must be held accountable for the huge fund linked to her, the investigation cannot be complete if it was not extended to her husband. “She is not the only one; even her husband should be probed.
The investigation will have no meaning if Jonathan is not probed. How did she come about that type of money? Of course, she couldn’t have got that kind of money without her husband creating the opportunities,” he said. Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption (PACC) told New Telegraph that Jonathan’s wife must explain how she acquired the money.
According to him, “the issue at hand is a very simple one. In a situation where somebody claims or appears to have such enormous assets, which are ways beyond the means of living of that person, in other words, way beyond what the person can appear to earn legitimately, the EFCC or ICPC are entitled to apply for freezing such funds.
And then the court can order that person to explain how he or she acquired that type of fortune. “In the absence of ability to establish that you are the owners of the fortune by showing how you earned such a huge sum, then it will be forfeited.”
Sagay stated that the wife of the former president must explain how she came about the money. His words: “I believe there is no reason why this principle should not be applied to this situation. So, Patience Jonathan has to come before the court to establish how she acquired $34.1 million. What was she doing, how was she earning it? She has to explain it.
I don’t know if former President Jonathan has anything to say about it, but anyone who interferes with it or claims anything in it will be put under the same burden to prove how they legitimately acquired it, but if you cannot establish that, then you will lose the asset.”
The first Bishop of Akure Diocese of Anglican Communion, Rev. Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, told New Telegraph that the former first lady should be probed about how she came about the huge amount of money found in her account.
The octogenarian said if there is a strong suspicion that the money was acquired through fraudulent means, she should be prosecuted in the law court. Gbonigi said: “She should be probed to know how she came about the money and if there is a strong suspicion that she got the money through illegal means and that she did not work for the money, she should be made to face the wrath of the law. “The law is no respecter of anybody; the law does not respect anybody, including the president. Anybody that does contrary to the law should be probed and prosecuted.
“The fact that she is wife of former president does not make her above the law.” The leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, described the action of the former first lady as scandalous, querying where she got that kind of money from. Fasoranti said the question should be asked what business did she do that could have fetched her such amount of money since she was not known to be a business woman before, during or after her husband has left the presidency.
His words: “It is scandalous. How did she come about that money? She should not have shown her face at all, not to talk of filing the suit. People who live in glass house should not throw stones.” Radical social critic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, stated that the money was not legally acquired and should revert to the national treasury.
According to him, the money should be regarded as part of the fund recovered from treasury looters and should be retrieved from her. “If the account was being run by her and she had that much money in foreign exchange and in the local currency, then of course, the question to ask is: How much is Jonathan himself worth and where is his own money? Technically, Patience was not part of the government; she was the first lady, but there is no provision for First Lady in our constitution. She had no executive responsibilities of any kind; nothing was budgeted in the office because the entire budget was to the office of the president.
The important thing, as far as I am concerned, is to collect the money.
“Thereafter, whatever government wants to do with her is another matter entirely. I want that money recovered because I want it to also be used to assist in resolving the country’s dire financial situation,” he said. Senator John Brambaifa, who represented Bayelsa South Senatorial District at the National Assembly, stated that since Jonathan no longer enjoys immunity, he and his wife should be properly investigated. National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, expressed worry that a retired Permanent Secretary could own such amount of money.
He stated: “What is Mrs. Jonathan’s source of income? It is only in Nigeria that a Permanent Secretary would be worth millions of dollars. The fact that she is reported to have the temerity to take EFCC to court reveals a lot. How much more are the Jonathans worth?
The state would have failed in its primary responsibility of protecting lives if it fails to prosecute them because Nigerians die every day from common diseases.” Anti-corruption crusader, General Ishola Williams (rtd), said the ex-first lady must prove the ownership of the money.
“What is interesting in the present case is that the former first lady had come out to claim the money in question. That is what I call braggadocio and I can’t really believe it. By doing this, she has set a trap for herself. So, we should allow the court to decide why the money should be seized or otherwise.
“She must prove documentarily how she came about the money. It is a very, very interesting case and I am so happy that she did that,” Williams said. Chief Chekwas Okorie, the national chairman of United Progressive Party (UPP), said the law should take its course in the matter.
“It is unfortunate that such amount of money could be traced to her because it is clear to everyone that she had no means either before or after office from which such huge sum could have been generated. What tax was she paying if she had such amount?
So, let the law take its full course and she should prove how she generated the money. “Nobody should be above the law. If there are incontrovertible evidence that he dipped his hand into the public treasury; he should face the law because nobody should be above the law.”
Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former governor of Anambra State, told New Telegraph that the graft war should be holistic. He said that the wife of the former president should not be singled out for prosecution. “I feel there is more corruption in the system than before because some people are exploiting their offices. The war against corruption should be holistic. It shouldn’t be a tool to witchhunt perceived members of the opposition.
“The former first lady should not be singled out for prosecution, while leaving some people who are close to the president and have equally been accused of corruption.” Former Lagos State Commissioner of Police and anti-corruption crusader, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said Nigerians demand explanation on the source of the money. “If she said the money is hers, she needs to explain how she got it. She wasn’t controlling any political position when they were in power. She was known to be a permanent secretary in Bayelsa State.
If I were her, the best thing to do is to explain how I got the money. She might have gotten the money from contractors who needed her favour. At present, there is nothing to investigate, because nobody has complained that she took their money,” Tsav said.
Chief Ralph Obioha, a Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, said: “The volume of the money ascribed to her is suspicious. There should be a thorough investigation and after that, if the fund traced to her were obtained under illegal or fraudulent means, then she can be prosecuted because everybody is subject to be accountable.” Dr. Dozie Ikedife, a former President of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, stated that there is no evidence yet that Mrs. Jonathan stole the money.
“I don’t know how she made the money and I can’t imagine how she made such money. Did she make the money through her salary, business or as a gift? She should give explanation on how she got the money. “I am of the view that it is vicious for anybody to say that she should be prosecuted because of the amount of money in her account. There is no evidence to prove that she stole any money. If there is evidence that she stole money, she can be prosecuted but if not, we should leave her alone.
There is no law in Nigeria that states that people should not have huge amount in their account,” Ikedife said. The Ijaw National Congress (INC) said it was not against the probe of anybody with alleged corruption case to answer, but alleged that the probe by the Buhari administration has been selective.
The publicity secretary of INC, Miebaka Tamunomiebi, said that Ijaw sons and daughters were being targeted for probe, noting that people linked to corruption that are in the corridors of power are not facing probe.
He said: “Anything corruption is condemnable, but the probe is selective. The present action by the Federal Government as regards corruption is anti- Ijaw. There are some people that deserve to be probed, but are walking freely. It should not be the case.”
Senator Sonni Ogbuoji (PDP, Ebonyi South) said that it was illegal for EFCC to have frozen the bank accounts belonging to Mrs. Jonathan. “EFCC’s action is illegal. You have to prove that the money wasn’t earned through proper channels,” Ogbuoji said. Senator Ben Bruce stated that it has not be established that the ex-first lady has committed any offence. His words: “That Dame Patience Jonathan has money in the bank is not a crime.
Where else should money be? A crime is only committed if it is established that the money is derived from illegitimate sources. If the EFCC has evidence that anybody has committed a crime, then the proper place to run to is the court, not the press.
I choose to make my words few while we watch this issue unfold itself.” The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) and the Citizens’ Popular Party (CPP) said there was nothing wrong in the present administration probing Jonathan and his wife, so far such probe will be extended to other former presidents and heads of state who are still alive.