Former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan has been accused of collecting a total of N4,900,000, which is N700, 000 monthly salary seven months after she retired as a civil servant.
Naija News understands that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that the former First Lady, who effectively retired from the Bayelsa State Civil Service as a Permanent Secretary on October 14, 2014, was paid her salary up till May 2015, when her husband left the office.
The Commission stated this at the Federal High Court in Lagos during the hearing of a forfeiture case it brought against Mrs. Jonathan.
The agency is praying the court to order the final forfeiture of $8.4 million and N7.4 billion allegedly belonging to her.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun declined to grant EFCC’s application for final forfeiture but directed parties to give oral evidence to justify ownership. She said there were conflicting depositions in the affidavits before her, adding that oral evidence was needed to clear them up.
The judge had last April 20 ordered the funds’ temporary forfeiture to the Federal Government.
Mrs. Jonathan, Globus Integrated Services Ltd, Finchley Top Homes Ltd., Am-Pm Global Network Ltd, Pagmat Oil and Gas Ltd, Magel Resort Ltd and Esther Oba are the respondents.
Among the temporarily forfeited sums are N1.085billion and N226.3million found in Finchley’s Ecobank account and N39.4million found in its Diamond Bank account, as well as N55.9million found in Pagmat Oil and Gas’ Diamond Bank account, among others.
Mrs. Jonathan’s lawyers, including Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), had argued that the funds included donations and legitimate earnings by the companies linked to her.
But, EFCC said the money was “reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity”.
At the commencement of proceedings yesterday, Mrs Jonathan’s lawyers called a former Head of Service of Bayelsa State, Mr. Fraser Ogboru, as its first witness.
In his testimony, Ogboru, who said he retired from Bayelsa State Civil Service on December 31, 2014, told the court that he had knew Mrs. Jonathan when her husband was a Deputy Governor.
He claimed he was still in service when Mrs. Jonathan was appointed a permanent secretary.
During cross-examination by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness said he had no knowledge of when Patience Jonathan’s salary was stopped as he had already left service by then.
Oyedepo: “The first respondent’s (Mrs Jonathan) effective date of retirement is 16th October, 2014. Would you be surprised to hear that the first respondent was still earning salaries till May 2015?”
Ogboru: “I would be surprised.”
Ogboru said a Permanent Secretary’s monthly salary was about N700,000 while the gratuity upon retirement was just over N20million.
Other witnesses including a former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, and the South West Zonal Coordinator of an NGO, Women for Change Initiative, Chief Mrs. Kate Onyechere, also testified.In his testimony, Dudafa denied being used by the former First Lady to launder money.
He told Justice Olatoregun that all the funds in an account linked to a firm, Globus Integrated Services Ltd, were cash gifts given to the former First Lady during her husband’s tenure as President.
“I was not procured by the family of Dame Patience Jonathan to conceal proceeds of unlawful activities and by virtue of being the former Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs to the erstwhile president and the 1st respondent (Mrs. Jonathan), I was informed by the 1st respondent that the funds in the firm’s account are cash gifts that were given to her while she was the first lady”, Dudafa said.
The witness also denied that he was aware that a bag he received on behalf of Dr. Jonathan from one, Col. Adegbe, in the course of his duties contained $47 million which was allegedly removed from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the instruction of a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.
On her part, Chief Mrs. Kate Onyechere explained the rationale behind the founding of the Women for Change Initiative by Mrs. Jonathan.
She also revealed the various sources through which the Initiative get fund to carry out its activities.
“The Initiative was formed by Mrs. Jonathan as a normal non-governmental organization. The main thing is empowerment. We empower Nigerian women across 36 states. We have zonal, states and local government coordinators.“We organised luncheon and receive donations across states to get funds. We also write private individuals to donate. Even, the coordinators also make donations”, she said.
The witness further revealed that Mrs. Jonathan was unanimously adopted by the trustees and coordinators of the Initiative as the sole signatory to its accounts.Under cross-examination by Oyedepo, the witness named four individuals as Trustees of Women for Change Initiative.
They are: Dr. Chidinma, Mrs Josephine, Mrs Jonathan and Mrs Yemisi Oyewole.
Further hearing in the matter has been adjourned to May 24, 2019 at 11am.