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Saturday, February 24, 2024

EFCC vs Patience Jonathan: A Classic Case Of Despotic Persecution And Tyrannical Abuse Of Office [LEGAL OPINION]

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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ellow citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sometime in a 1783 House of Commons Speech, William Pitt the Younger, stated albeit instructively and rightly that “necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

It is against this backdrop that I hope to situate in proper context the brazenly unconstitutional, unlawful, and illegal actions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in freezing the Skye Bank Account which the EFCC alleges contains $31m belonging to Mrs Patience Jonathan popularly known as Mama Peace, the wife of former President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan GCFR and immediate past first lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It is pertinent to state that the said actions of the EFCC is not backed by any law in force in Nigeria presently inclusive of the EFCC Act. I will buttress this assertion later in this piece.

Nonetheless, it beggars belief that the EFCC in its desperation to hound, harass, intimidate, persecute, extort and expose Mrs.Patience Jonathan to public ridicule, opprobrium and anger has engaged in crude misinformation of the global public and manifestly breached not just the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and other extant laws inclusive of its very own Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment)Act,what a monumental shame!

It may interest you fellow citizens to note that whereas Section 6(a)-(q)of the EFCC Act, clearly outlines the functions of the of the EFCC particularly Section 6(b)provides thus “the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud,money laundering,counterfeiting…” While 6(d) states “the adoption of measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crime related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds;” Furthermore, Section 7 of the EFCC Act confers Special Powers on the Commission to wit; 7(1)The Commission has power to (a)”cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person,corporate body or organization has committed an offence under this Act or any other law relating to economic and financial crimes; (b)”cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s life style and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.”

The above powers of the EFCC notwithstanding,the EFCC Act in Part V titled “FORFEITURE OF ASSETS OF PERSONS ARRESTED FOR OFFENCES UNDER THIS ACT” clearly circumscribed the procedure for undertaking the process of freezing of funds in a suspect’s corporate or personal bank accounts, particularly a combined reading of Sections 27 and 34 of the EFCC Act will suffice. Sections 27(1)provides thus “Where a person is ‘arrested’ for committing an offence under this Act. Such person shall make a full disclosure of all his assets and properties by completing the Declaration of Assets Form as specified in Form A of the Schedule to this Act.
(2) “The completed Declaration of Assets Form shall be investigated by the Commission”.
Furthermore,under the same Part V Section 34(1) provides thus:

“Notwithstanding anything contained in any other enactment or law,the Chairman of the Commission or any other officer authorised by him may,if satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence under this Act and any of the enactments specified under section 7(2)(a)-(f) of this Act,apply to the Court ex-parte for power to issue an ‘Order’ as specified in Form B of the Schedule to this Act,addressed to the manager of the bank or any other person in control of the financial institution or designated non-financial institution where the account is or believed by him to be or the head office of the bank,other financial institution or designated non-financial institution to freeze the account.
(2)”The Chairman of the Commission, or any officer authorized by him may by an order issued under. subsection (1) of this section, direct the bank,other financial institution or designated non-financial institution to supply any information and produce books and documents relating to the account and to stop all outward payments,operation or transactions(including any bill of exchange) in respect of the account of the person.(3)”The manager or any other person in control of the financial institution shall take necessary steps to comply with the requirements of the order made pursuant to subsection(2) of this section.

The foregoing raises serious questions regarding the moral and legal basis and justification of the EFCC to undertake this vindictive Gestapo acts against citizen Dr. Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Goodluck Jonathan. In the light of the above, there arises certain fundamental and salient questions to wit:

I) Did the EFCC invite, forward questionnaires, or arrest Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan for interrogation in compliance with Part V Section 27 of the EFCC Act in order for Mama Peace to fill the Declaration of Assets Form in compliance with the Act? The answer is capital No! Which is a crystal clear breach of the outlined procedure as enshrined in the EFCC Act and a crass infringement of Dr. Patience Ibifaka Goodluck Jonathan’s Constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing as espoused in Section 36(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and expressed in the latin maxim “audi alterem partem” meaning “hear the other side also”.

(2) Did the EFCC apply and secure an Ex-parte Order from a Court of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria for the power to freeze the corporate or personal bank account of Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Goodluck Jonathan? The answer to the above poser is in the negative. It therefore necessarily follows that the EFCC is pursuing a manifestly vindictive mission in flagrant breach of section 34 of its own EFCC Act.

(3) How much is exactly contained in the said bank accounts of Dr. (Mrs.) Patience Ibifaka Goodluck Jonathan? Whilst Mama Peace contends it is less than 10 million U.S. Dollars,the EFCC in its statement mentioned $31 million.

Since this is the case, shouldn’t the EFCC ordinarily be glad that Mama Peace is ‘forfeiting’ about 22 million U.S. Dollars? If so why would Mama Peace be in court with the EFCC to secure the defreezing of her personal account containing less than $10 million U.S.Dollars instead of $31 million US dollars? It therefore necessarily follows that the EFCC surely must be on a mission of malicious misinformation and dissemination of falsehood against citizen Mama Peace and by extension the family of former President Goodluck Jonathan. What then is the purpose of this malicious and tyrannical action of the EFCC? Could it evidently be a mission to impeach the international statesmanship credibility of former President Goodluck Jonathan GCFR and to in the process launder the badly battered anti-corruption image of President Gen. Muhammadu Buhari GCFR as he went to address the United Nations General Assembly? Could it be a Machiavellian attempt to extort Dr. Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Jonathan of her money? Fellow Nigerians, today it is the turn of citizen Dr. Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Goodluck Jonathan, tomorrow it will definitely be you and me!

The greatest corruption known to humanity is institutional corruption and abuse of office because it destroys the confidence of citizens to explore the machinery of legitimate state institutions for progress and protection. Therefore, I submit borrowing the immortal words of John Philpot Curran in his 1790 Speech where he posited that “the condition upon which God hath given liberty to men is eternal vigilance;which condition if he break,servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt.” Nigerians must wake up to safeguard our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and prevent this slide into tyranny, nepotism and fascism by joining our voices to the mass movement fighting for respect of the principles of Constitutionalism, rule of law, federal character, independence of the Judiciary, Legislature and other governmental institutions such as INEC, EFCC, Code of Conduct Bureau/ Tribunal and the establishment of a robust socio-economic framework to engender social justice, economic prosperity and the greatest happiness to the greatest number of Nigerians by the administration of President Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

Finally my confidence is in God who in His time vindicates the innocent and oppressed person and I trust the Judiciary to ensure that all citizens and governmental agencies are treated equally before the law,borrowing the immortal words of Lord Denning Master of Rolls in Gouriet v Union of Post Office Workers, “To every subject in this land,no matter how powerful,I would use Thomas Fuller’s words over 300 years ago: ‘Be you never so high,the law is above you.'” Therefore,the EFCC must be made to act under the ambit of the law in Nigeria.

Jonas G. Iniayemana, Esq, is a Port Harcourt based lawyer.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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