The drama involving the wife of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience Jonathan and the $15 million frozen accounts involving four companies who have pleaded guilty to charges brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has drawn a lot of reactions from the public, especially legal luminaries. We bring you some of these reactions as published by Punch Newspapers.
‘The fact as presented in the media is that certain companies were accused of violating the Money Laundering Prohibition Act. The companies and their directors were arrested and charged to court. These companies and their directors were arraigned before a court that has jurisdiction. The charges were read to them and they claimed to have understood the charges. They voluntarily pleaded guilty. The court properly and lawfully convicted them. Until the judgment is set aside on appeal, it would remain forever.In the eyes of the law, all the proceeds of the crime have been lawfully forfeited to the state.
The claim by Mrs. Jonathan to the ownership of the money already forfeited to the state is of no consequence since she did not appear before the court as a defendant. She has no locus standi in the criminal proceedings. She did not volunteer to be joined to the suspects.
She can maintain an action if she can prove the ownership of the money against the people she gave it to. The prosecuting authority owed her no obligation and neither can she maintain any claim against the state. We must separate sentiments, emotions, sympathy or political consideration from the due process of the law.’- Adegboyega Awomolo SAN
‘What should bother Nigerians now is how to raise the bar. This is the time to begin to ask questions from our political office holders, past and present, and their relations who are living above their means. We should ask them to declare the source(s) of wealth. Where there is no satisfactory explanation as to the source(s) of a suspect’s assets, the suspect should be made to forfeit the wealth to the state. The proceeds of such an illicit wealth should be used for infrastructural and industrial development.
It is against this backdrop that I would urge the EFCC and the Federal Government to give Mrs. Patience Jonathan an opportunity to explain the source(s) of the $15m she claimed belongs to her. She should also be able to explain why the money is in accounts she is not a signatory to.
It is not enough for Mrs. Jonathan’s lawyer to depose to an affidavit stating that she is the owner of the money. She should be able to supply further information explaining the source(s) of the money.
Where she is unable to satisfactorily explain how she legitimately earned the money, the money should be treated like the late Sani Abacha loot. It should be forfeited to the state.’- Liborous Oshoma (Human rights lawyer)
The fact is that the matter is in court. I am aware that the companies in whose accounts the money was kept pleaded guilty. That means the money is the proceeds of illicit activities. Those recognised by the law as the owners of the money have been charged to court.
The claim by Mrs. Jonathan that the money belongs to her is neither here nor there. This is because the money was not found in her account. For anybody to claim ownership of such money means that the person is encouraging a criminal act.
The only thing the wife of the former President could do now to help herself is to submit herself to the court to be tried along with the other indicted people. The accounts have been frozen. If Mrs. Jonathan truly wants the money released to her, she has to prove that the money is legitimate.
The question as to whether she would forfeit the money does not even arise because she has already forfeited it. That position can only be reversed if she proves that the money was legally acquired’- Adekunle Ojo (A former Vice-President, Nigerian Bar Association)
It is unfortunate, though not surprising, that such a huge amount was linked to Mrs. Patience Jonathan. The corruption and wanton theft witnessed during the last administration was monumental, and I believe the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is still scratching the surface.
She should be made to forfeit the stolen sum in compliance with the provisions of the law. The EFCC should ensure that the provisions of sections 26 to 33 of its Act on forfeiture and confiscation of assets are strictly followed. The EFCC should make the necessary application to the Federal High Court with the evidence at its disposal.
I also suggest that Mrs. Jonathan be prosecuted and made to face the consequences of her actions if found guilty.’- Ahmad Adetola-Kazeem (Human rights lawyer)
Parts of this article originally appeared in Punch Newspapers