THE House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to make available the list of accounts belonging to former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan that are not under litigation.
The lawmakers made the request following allegation by the petitioner that the EFCC has repeatedly failed to obey court orders. They directed the EFCC to lift ban on bank account s belonging to the petitioner in the absence of any litigation.
Counsel to EFCC, Mr. Ojogbane Johnson had in the course of the hearing maintained that reasons behind the commission’s decision to keep the accounts frozen was because they are still under investigation, a reason he said the commission appealed against court rulings directing that it de-freezes those accounts.
The legislators asked if the Commission lacks the competence and capacity to handle such investigations, he said that was far from being the case, adding that it’s always very difficult to follow the money and know it’s origin and final destination.
“It takes time to get to the root of where the monies came from and where they went”, he told the committee, urging that more details should be avoided so as not to run the risk of subjudice.
Mrs Jonathan’s counsel told the committee that the commission’s position that some of the matters are on appeal was incorrect.
He said: “The matter before Justice Olaturogun federal High Court In Lagos was challenged and when we filed our submission, they failed to respond and the matter was withdrawn by the judge. And the account was de-frozen.
‘’After that, they made appeal against that ruling which they withdrew three days later in the same court. And when we found out that there were ultra vires in section 17 of their submission, we went on appeal. Based on the order granted by Justice Olaturogun after the EFCC failed to prove the culpability of the accounts, they filed another appeal before justice Binta Inyako,” he submitted.
Rep Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) in his submission reminded the EFCC that “justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. When we took decision on this case on interim basis, we said that those accounts that are not under any litigation or freezing order should be released.
“But then you went to sleep. You neither released those accounts not under court restrictions nor go back to court to get them frozen. And here you are telling us that there are court cases on the accounts and expecting us to believe your blanket categorisation of frozen accounts.”
The committee Chairman, Rep Uzoma Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia), waded in saying that the EFCC lawyer should be careful so as not to mislead the public with regards to issues of subjudice, saying that parliament can talk about issues before the court provided it doesn’t affect the outcome of court proceeding on them.
He lampooned the EFCC saying that “you are supposed to be fighting corruption but you have shown that you want to determine how you fight corruption even if it means going against the law, because freezing somebody’s account without providing evidence culpability in the act of corruption is in itself corruption.”
“When court order that you de-freeze an account and you fail to do so without appealing the ruling is also corruption. Causing unnecessary adjournments to a case that shouldn’t take time to decide is also corruption.
“What’s legally expected of you was to challenge the court ruling directing that you de-freeze the accounts and not come here to tell the parliament that it cannot intervene in your failure to obey court order”, Abonta said.
While adjourning the matter for Wednesday (today), Abonta insisted that the commission must convince Nigerians that it’s prosecuting and not persecuting and also convince them that it’s