By Onyewuchi Ojinmaka (Senior Correspondent)
Mrs Patience Jonathan, wife of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on Friday lost her bid to retain her money as the Court of Appeal Lagos division dismissed her appeal over the temporary forfeiture of her $5.7million to the Federal Government.
She had approached the appellate court to challenge a ruling by a Federal High Court Lagos which temporarily ordered the forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court had on April 26 last year ordered temporary forfeiture of the money to Federal Government based on an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The judge also ordered the temporary forfeiture of N2,421,953,522.78 found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account numbered 2022000760 in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the money also belongs to Mrs Jonathan.
According to EFCC, the money was received in dollars by an Ecobank Plc staff from Presidential Villa (Aso Rock) through one Esther Oba who allegedly fronted for Mrs Jonathan.
Also dismissed by the appellate court was an appeal by La Wari Funiture.
In her prayers of appeal, Mrs Jonathan had urged the appellate court to dismiss the temporary forfeiture order on the grounds that sufficient materials were not presented at the lower court, among others.
But in a judgment delivered by Justice Mojeed Owoade on the appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the appeals lacked merit.
It upheld the arguments of EFCC counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, and resolved the issues against the appellant.
The Appeal Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, which empowers the EFCC to apply for the forfeiture to the Federal Government of property reasonably suspected to be proceed of unlawful activity.
Justice Owoade held that the section was not in conflict with Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees fair hearing.
Besides, the Justice added that Section 135 of the Evidence Act shifted the responsibility of proving how Mrs Jonathan got the money to her.
“The section merely shifts the evidential burden of proof on to the appellant to disprove the facts raised by the respondent in its motion on notice for final forfeiture of the funds.
“To that extent, the provisions of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud are neither in conflict with Section 135 (1) of the Evidence Act 2011 nor with Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
“There is nothing unusual or unconstitutional in the Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act.
“The respondent placed sufficient materials before the court below to justify the grant of the ex-parte application.
“Having resolved the two issues in this appeal against the appellant, the appeal lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed. I make no order as to cost,” Justice Owoade held.