Nigeria’s anti-corruption watchdog yesterday edged one-step closer towards former First Lady Patience Jonathan.
In a federal court in Lagos on 15 September, four companies pleaded guilty to conspiring with Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, to launder a sum of $15.6m.
In July 2016, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had frozen $15.6m that was found in four companies’ accounts in Skye Bank, a local Nigerian financial institution.
Former First Lady Patience Jonathan then wrote a letter to the EFCC in early September claiming that she is the rightful owner of the $15.6m, and that seizure of funds was “illegal, unlawful, wrongful and prejudicial”.
The four companies that pleaded guilty on Thursday are Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited, and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited.
In addition to Dudafa, the court also arraigned Amajuoyi Briggs, a former presidential aide; and Adedamola Bolodeoku, a former Skye Bank official, on graft and money laundering charges. All three pleaded not guilty on Thursday. The trial was then adjourned until 27 September.
The former First Lady has been no stranger to controversy over the years. Two years after her husband became President in 2010, she was randomly appointed as permanent secretary of Bayelsa State after having been on leave from the civil service for over 13 years. It is alleged that Bayelsa State’s Governor at the time, Henry Seriake Dickson, had won the governorship due to exceptional assistance from Goodluck Jonathan.
The EFCC, formed in 2003, has a poor record of securing convictions, as many employees have feared the dangerous implications of pursuing higher profile individuals. In 2010, the head of the Forensic Unit of the EFCC, Abdullahi Muazu, was assassinated after being actively involved in the trials of several heads of banks. However, since Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May 2015, dozens of civil servants have been arrested by a reinvigorated EFCC. Although his political opponents, who ruled Nigeria for 16 years until 2015, say the EFCC’s renewed purpose is nothing more than a witch-hunt to silence political opponents.