Alleged $5.7m Fraud: Judge Withdraws From Patience Jonathan’s Suit

Hope of the nation’s former First Lady, Dame Patience Ibifaka Jonathan, to halt the forfeiture of her $5.7 million, and N2, 421, 953, 522.78, to the Nigerian Government, was dashed on Wednesday, as one of the Appeal Court Judges who supposed to preside over the matter ‘recuse’ himself.

The withdrawing judge was said to have made the decision “for personal reasons”.

Justice John Ikyeh, who presided over the appeal alongside Justices Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo and Abrahim Georgewill, told the court at the resumed hearing of the matter that three judges were required to form a quorum.

Jurstice Ikyeh, however did not mention whom among them that withdrew from the matter.

The presiding Judge said: “One of us is going to recuse himself from this case for personal reasons, so we are not complete. Two of us cannot make a quorum.”

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Consequently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court consider hearing the appeal as early as possible, preferably during vacation.

Oyedepo urged the court to entertain the matter during vacation, as the Commission is faced with challenge, as the trial court has stayed proceedings over the suit.

But the appellant court insisted that the matter cannot be heard as it did not formed a quorum. The Commission’s request was not granted.

Justice Ikyeh said: “We can’t write anything because we are not complete. One of us is recusing from this appeal.

Consequently, the suit is hereby adjourned till September 18, first week after vacation.”

Patience Jonathan’s’s appeal was sequel to an order obtained by the EFCC last April 26, from the Federal High Court in Lagos, temporarily forfeiting the cash to the government.

The Commission had told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who made the order, that the funds were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

It said the N5.7m was part of the $6,791,599.64 (about N2.1billion) which Mrs Jonathan allegedly directed her aides to pay into her account between February 8, 2013 and January 30, 2015, while her husband was President.
Mrs. Jonathan, the commission said, had earlier spent $949, 282.98 (about N296, 141,911) from the money.

It said she also withdrew another $100,000 from the account in April, leaving a balance of $5,731,173.55.
Justice Olatoregun also ordered the temporary forfeiture of the N2,421,953,522.78 found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account numbered 2022000760 in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited.

The commission also said the money also belongs to Mrs Jonathan.

Justice Olatoregun had in May this year, stopped proceedings in the hearing of the EFCC’s application seeking permanent forfeiture of the money, pending the decision of the appeal filed against the interim fortiture order by Patience Jonathan.

Justice Olatoregun had granted the application for stay of proceedings, of Mrs Jonathan’s lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and that of Counsel for La Wari Furniture and Baths, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN).

In urging the court to stay all proceedings on the matter, Adedipe and Ozekhome (SANs), informed the court that they had filed an application for stay of proceedings.

Ozekhome added that once an appeal had been entered, the lower court ought to stay proceedings.
Besides, he said, the Appeal Court had already fixed the case for hearing

Mrs Jonathan, in the notice of appeal, is praying the court to hold that the law cited by the EFCC in its ex-parte application for the temporary forfeiture was inapplicable.

“A judge is bound by the prayers on the motion paper, and the court has no jurisdiction to make a case for a party different from that presented by the said party,” the appellant said.

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