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Investigative activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have again yielded startling revelations about the culture of impunity and the rapacious attitude of highly-placed persons towards the nation's resources.

Investigative activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have again yielded startling revelations about the culture of impunity and the rapacious attitude of highly-placed persons towards the nation's resources.

The EFCC had announced the discovery of over $15 million in four accounts in Skye Bank, reportedly belonging to some domestic staff of Nigeria's former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. The commission arrested the servants, including a driver and houseboy in whose name the accounts were opened.
The anti-graft agency stumbled upon the discovery while investigating the former Special Assistant to then President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Mr. Waripamowei Dudafa. Consequently, the EFCC ordered that the accounts be frozen while investigations continued. Further inquiries had revealed another account in the name of Mrs. Jonathan, with a credit balance of $5million. So far, there are reports that over $31million is the total amount involved in the suspected case of money laundering.
However, Mrs. Jonathan, in a dramatic twist, wrote to the EFCC claiming ownership of the money in the accounts. She explained that she had given the money to Dudafa to open the accounts for her. Somehow, the accounts were opened in four companies' names. The identities of the firms involved were given as: Pluto Property and Investment Company, Globus Integrated Service Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company and Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited. Mrs. Jonathan had even audaciously filed a lawsuit, asking the EFCC to defreeze the accounts. In an affidavit on her behalf by Mr. Sammie Somiari, she explained that the money was meant to settle her medical bills abroad and other personal expenses.
The suspects were later arraigned on a 15-count amended charge of money laundering, stealing and forgery, before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court, Lagos. In another breath, her lawyer had written to the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, stating that Mrs. Jonathan “is a law-abiding citizen and has watched with surprise how efforts are being made surreptitiously, to indirectly harass or harangue her and short-change her of her personal funds in breach of her fundamental human rights.” The letter further stated that the accounts were card-based, of which she was the sole signatory. It added that her client was surprised to learn that a “no debit order” had been placed on the account.
It is viewed that the defence by Mrs. Jonathan is hollow and intriguing. While it is not an offence for an individual to own such money, it is however curious that she did not state how she earned the millions. Indeed, for the whooping fund in hard currency to be owned by an individual without any verifiable business concern, in a country under recession calls for more scrutiny. Coming in the face of the on-going probe of some top ex-officials of the Jonathan administration, the stashing of over $31 million that cannot be exhausted in one's lifetime typifies how gluttonous and insensitive those with unfettered access to the nation's common till can be.
While the guilty plea entered by the directors of the four companies may have added a new dimension to the issue, the insistence by Mrs. Jonathan that the EFCC hired mercenaries to pose as the companies' representatives has raised further concerns, especially when Dudafa and the Skye Bank officials pleaded not guilty. It is unfortunate that the wife of the immediate past president did not state how she earned such money in the affidavit deposed to on her behalf. Even if she is a business woman, is her business(es) such a money spinner that an amount as stupendous as what was lodged in the bank can be so reserved for medical bills and other personal expenses? Having been a civil servant in Bayelsa State before her husband was elected as a governor and later president, we dare say she could not have been into any part-time business to have fetched her such money. Merely disclosing that the money was meant to take care of medical expenses should not water-down the need to state the source.
Nigeria Moment urges the anti-graft agency to get to the root of how the ex-First Lady came about the mouth-watering amount. We trust the ability of the judiciary to handle the case, but caution concerned actors not to allow sentiments and other petty considerations kill the anti-corruption fight as pertains to the matter at hand. Besides, at a time when some Nigerians cannot afford one meal a day, we shudder to think that such huge sum of money could have been successfully laundered.

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