Wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, on Thursday temporarily blocked the Federal High Court in Abuja from hearing an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seeking an order of interim forfeiture of two properties traced to her in Abuja.
Usually, such ex parte applications are heard by courts without the knowledge or participation of the other parties whose properties are at stake.
But somehow, Patience’s legal team led by Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), got wind of the fact that the EFCC’s ex parte motion was to be heard by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba on Thursday.
The legal team quickly filed a motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the ex parte motion and also attended court on Thursday to block the hearing.
Justice Dimgba was set to hear the EFCC’s motion on Thursday but had to adjourn until November 11, after Adedipe and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), appeared for Mrs. Jonathan and argued that the ex parte could not be heard since their client had filed an application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain it.
The EFCC was represented by Best Ojukwu and also later by Tahir Sylvanus.
After the back-and-forth arguments between the EFCC and Mrs. Jonathan’s legal teams, the court fixed November 11 for the hearing of the applications.
A large number of Mrs. Jonathan’s supporters, mostly women with some having their children with them, attended the court proceedings on Thursday.
Most of them, who could not find a space within the courtroom, sat with their babies on bare floor outside.
The EFCC had, through its counsel, Mr. Benjamin Manji, filed an ex parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/872/2017, on September 9, 2017, seeking an order of interim attachment/forfeiture properties at Plot No. 1960, Cadastral Zone A05, Maitama District, and Plot No. 1350, Cadastral Zone A00, both in Abuja.
The properties were said to be held in the name of Ariwabai Aruera Reachout Foundation, which Mrs. Jonathan was said to be one of its “trustees.”
Apart from seeking the interim forfeiture of the properties, the EFCC also prayed for “an order stopping any disposal, conveyance, mortgage, lease, sale or alienation or otherwise of the property/asset described in the schedule attached herein.”
The application also sought “an order authorising the EFCC to appoint a competent person(s)/firm to manage the asset/property listed in the schedule herein, temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government pending the conclusion of investigation.”
An investigator with the EFCC, Mr. Kolawole Mukaila, who deposed to the affidavit filed in support of the motion, said a discreet investigation which commenced in 2016, showed that the plots of land, the subject matter of the case, were allocated to Ariwabai Reachout Foundation, allegedly belonging to Mrs. Jonathan and her allies, in 2010 and 2011.
He stated that the Foundation had Mrs. Jonathan as one of the trustees and signatories of the account.
He added that payments, transfers and purchases made from the Foundation’s accounts kept with Diamond Bank and Ecobank were “reasonably suspected to be fraudulent” and “an illegal dissipation of the nation’s resources”.
But in her motion challenging the EFCC’s ex parte application, Mrs. Jonathan, sought “an order of this court striking out the respondent’s ex parte originating summons dated September 20, 2017, filed at the registry of this court honourable court on the same date, on the ground that this honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the said application.”
An affidavit filed in support of the application was deposed to by a lawyer in Mrs. Jonathan’s legal team, Mr. Chinedu Maduba, stated that Ariwabai Aruera Reachout Foundation, “whose properties are being sought to be forfeited” was originally incorporated by the wife of former President Jonathan on May 27, 2009.
It stated that the organisation was registered as a charitable organisation.
But the affidavit stated that the EFCC started harrasing Mrs. Jonathan recently, a development which it stated prompted her to file the fundamental human rights suit.