•Only diligent prosecution can prove Mrs. Jonathan’s innocence or guilt
MORALLY, it stinks like the sewers: the seedy tale that Dame Patience Jonathan, former First Lady, is allegedly involved in some dodgy accounts, that could well be conduits for money laundering.
But the legal situation is less clear-cut. Mrs Jonathan is owning up to five controversial accounts, claiming she has proof that every dime of the trove therein, reportedly US $22.4 million, is her “hard-earned money”.
But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) demurs, claiming it has cause to believe the trove is proceeds of alleged crime; and has put in motion processes that will make the courts decide which is which.
Indeed, the breaking of the story would appear a moral equivalent of “Operation Shock and Awe”, to borrow the code name for the US military invasion of Iraq, under President George Bush, Jnr.
In all, US $22,353, 076.71 was allegedly wired into Mrs. Jonathan’s account via one personal account and four corporate ones. The corporate accounts reportedly belong to Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Ltd, Globus Integrated Services Ltd and Trans Ocean Property and Investment Ltd. The accounts are domiciled in Skye Bank Plc.
Other suspects, in the alleged dodgy accounts, are Dr. Dudafa Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel, a former presidential aide, Damola Bolodeoku, Dipo Oshodi and Theodora Varinik, all bankers and one Sompre Omeibi, said to be on the run.
Despite the initial shock, the macabre drama, over the controversial accounts, would appear just starting. On September 15, the EFCC arraigned the four firms involved in the alleged scam. They pleaded guilty to laundering US $15,591,700 (about N5 billion) of the US $22.4 million involved.
But Mrs Jonathan promptly riposted, claiming those who pleaded guilty to the charges, on behalf of the docked firms, were impostors that EFCC allegedly recruited, to deprive her of her money. “Those who pleaded guilty are agents,” she declared in a press statement her media aide released. “This is a clear evidence of the desperation of the prosecution to pull down the former First Lady and confiscate her hard-earned money.”
But while all of these go on, a blast from the past revealed that in 2006 — 10 years ago — the same Mrs Jonathan, then spouse of the Bayelsa State Governor, Goodluck Jonathan, was accused by the EFCC, under Nuhu Ribadu, of money laundering.
Indeed, the International Herald Tribune, in September 2006, quoted EFCC’s Osita Nwajah as saying the anti-sleaze body seized US $13.5 million from Mrs. Jonathan, for alleged money laundering, through a proxy.
Earlier, that same month, EFCC had applied for a court order to temporarily freeze another N104 million, reportedly another proceed of money laundering, after one Mrs. Nancy Ebere Nwosu had allegedly implicated Mrs. Jonathan, in a sworn document.
What happened to these past cases? Was Mrs Jonathan found innocent; and was discharged and acquitted? Or was the matter buried by impunity? Whatever happened, the present case should be diligently prosecuted. If Mrs Jonathan proves her legitimate earning of the sum in question, let the court hear the case and acquit her in the open. If otherwise, let her face the music, like any other citizen.
Let there not be any cover-up, whatsoever. That is the only way Nigerians can escape the dire consequences of structured corruption, that tends to have lain the land prostrate.