The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has issued a seven day ultimatum to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to prosecute Dame Patience Jonathan over $15million unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts.
SERAP urged the AGF to take the step of prosecuting the former First Lady within seven days or risk legal proceedings to compel him to discharge his constitutional duty.
According to the group, the AGF must use his good offices as a defender of public interest, and exercise his powers under Section 174(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), to urgently institute and undertake criminal proceedings against Mrs. Jonathan the source of funds in the frozen bank accounts, which she claimed belongs to her.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had while investigating Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited; Globus Integrated Service Limited and Seagate Property Development and Investment Limited, placed a “Post No Debit” order on the companies’ bank accounts domiciled with Skye Bank.
But Mrs. Jonathan, who is the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, wrote to claim the funds frozen in the accounts and slammed a N200million damages suit of Skye Bank.
In a letter dated September 13, 2016 and signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP argued that, “Mrs. Jonathan is a politically exposed person under anticorruption standards. She is also covered under the definition of ‘public officials’ contained in the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. Under article 2 of the convention, public officials include Mrs Jonathan or any other family members of the former President Goodluck Jonathan who exercised official duties while he was president”.
The letter reads in part: “Under article 20 of the convention, this government has an obligation to prosecute intentional illicit enrichment, that is, a significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.
“The fact that the $15m found in the four accounts belong to Mrs. Jonathan raises serious suspicion or at the very least a prima-facie case of unexplained wealth/illicit enrichment, and imposes an obligation on Mrs. Jonathan to explain and justify the source(s) of the $15m.
“In the event that she is not able to justify, explain or put forth evidence demonstrating the legitimate origin of the $15m, SERAP urges you to take immediate steps to forfeit the asset under appropriate legal proceedings, and to institute criminal prosecution for unexplained wealth in the matter.
“Similarly, section 44 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act criminalises unexplained or illicit wealth and allows criminal penalties and forfeiture if in the course of an investigation there are reasonable grounds to believe that a corruption offence has been committed, that is, the failure to explain the origin of the $15m given present or past emoluments, and other relevant circumstances”.
SERAP pointed out that “Mrs. Jonathan has admitted that the four accounts belong to her and that she is the sole signatory to these accounts. The four accounts in which Mrs. Jonathan’s $15m was lodged are said to belong to the following companies: Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited. Mrs. Jonathan was given a platinum card and exclusive access to the accounts.
“According to reports, a houseboy, a driver and other domestic workers of a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamowei Dudafa, were named as directors”.
Pursuing prosecution in this case, SERAP argued, would help to provide adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition to victims of corruption who continue to be denied their right to an effective remedy.
“It would also send a clear message that cases of unexplained wealth or illicit enrichment involving politically exposed persons would not go unpunished”, SERAP said.