The $5.7m and N2.4bn seized from former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were cash gifts which she received when her husband was in office and not proceeds of crime, her lawyer told a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday.
Her lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), appealed to Justice Mojisola Olatoregun to dismiss the application by the EFCC, praying that the money be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
Adedipe argued that it was wrong for the EFCC to tag the money as proceeds of crime, when the former first lady had committed no crime and when nobody complained that their money was missing.
The former First Lady told the Court that till dated, nobody has accused her of stealing money.
She therefore urged the court to order the release of the $5.7m and N2.4bn seized from her by the EFCC.
Adedipe said such gifts were normal, pointing out that even the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, was seeking to build a university.
The lawyer contended that Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud, which EFCC relied upon to seize Patience Jonathan’s funds, was only applicable to fraudsters.
“It is not the law that if the EFCC finds money in an account and it doesn’t like the owner’s face, it comes to court and says ‘forfeit it’.
“The government is at liberty to apply for forfeiture but the offence must be stated.
“The first respondent is a wife to a former deputy governor, governor, vice president, and president.
“Even the current occupier of the office of the First Lady wants to build a university.
“In this country, First Ladies enjoy a lot of goodwill. She (Patience Jonathan) stated that governors gave her money. Nobody wrote that she stole their money,” the SAN said.
Adedipe said there was no justification for the money to be forfeited to the federal government, as the EFCC had not proved that Patience Jonathan stole money from the government or any individual.