Firm linked to Patience Jonathan, others appeal forfeiture of N12.4 billion

former First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
Former First Lady, Patience Jonathan.

A firm linked to former first lady, Patience Jonathan, and three other companies have filed an appeal before the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court challenging Monday’s final forfeiture order of N9.2 billion and $8.4 million belonging to Mrs Jonathan.

The amount totals N12.4 billion.

Magel Resort Limited, joined by Finchley Top Homes Limited, AM PM Global Network, and Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited are challenging the decision by the federal high court.

The companies were among those affected after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) secured an interim forfeiture order to freeze their bank accounts, in 2016

The appellants say they are challenging the entire judgment and are seeking the appellate court to set it aside and return the forfeited funds to the accounts of the appellants.

Mojisola Olatoregun, the judge, on Monday ordered that the funds, domiciled in Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Stanbic IBTC, Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank), and First Bank be returned to the federal government.

During the suit, Mrs Jonathan had claimed ownership of the funds insisting they were proceeds of goodwill donations from Nigerians, which ”she enjoyed as the wife of a deputy governor, governor, and president, as well as proceeds of funds raised when she launched her NGO, Women 4 Change and Development Initiative, in 2010”.

Mrs Jonathan’s husband, Goodluck, served as deputy governor and governor of their native Bayelsa State before becoming president between 2010 and 2015.

Grounds of appeal

Joined as respondents in the appeal are the EFCC, Mrs Jonathan, Globus Integrated Services, and Esther Oba as the first, second, third, and fourth respondents, respectively.

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In their six grounds of appeal, the appellants, through their lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, argued that the lower court occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it assumed jurisdiction to hear the motion for the final forfeiture of the funds and relying on the “speculative depositions” of the EFCC against the clear evidence of the acquisition of income and proofs by the appellants.

The appellants argued that the federal high court judge granted the final forfeiture order ”without deciding as to whether the appellant had shown sufficient cause which would have warranted it to discharge its earlier interim forfeiture order before proceeding with the suit”.

The appellants further argued that the lower court erred by granting the final forfeiture order while its jurisdiction was still being challenged.

They also disagreed with the court’s decision to “shift the onus propandi to the appellant to prove not only the sources of their funds but their innocence.”

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