Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Federal Government to the Federal High Court in Lagos asking the court for “leave to apply for Judicial Relief and to seek an order of Mandamus directing and or compelling the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against former first lady Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts.”
The organization is also asking the court “for such order or other orders as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.”
The suit with number FHC/L/CS/1318/2016 dated 23th September 2016 was filed on behalf of SERAP by Adetokunbo Mumuni. SERAP’s suit is coming against the background of the request last week by Mrs Jonathan for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to defreeze her accounts and offer her a public apology within 14-days.
SERAP’s suit brought under Order 34, Rules 1 (1) (a); 2, Rule 3 (1) and (2) (a), (b) and (c) of the Federal High Court Rules, 2009 and Inherent Jurisdiction of the Court reads in part: “The Attorney General of the Federation has a duty to prosecute intentional illicit enrichment, that is, a significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.”
“By virtue of Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) the Attorney General of the Federation is constitutionally empowered to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person in Nigeria in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National assembly in superior courts in Nigeria.”
“The Attorney General of the Federation has failed, neglected and or refused to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in her accounts.”
“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules made to regulate matters”.
“Mrs. Jonathan is a politically exposed person under anticorruption standards. She is also covered under the definition of ‘public officials’ contained in the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. Under article 2 of the convention, public officials include Mrs. Jonathan or any other family members of the former President Goodluck Jonathan who exercised official duties while he was president.”
“This matter is presently generating a lot of public concern and discourse and is presently in the front burner of national discourse thus germane to Nigerians and that the alleged crime is in our society at the moment regarded so serious as to be a bother on daily life. By the nature of the case, it ought to be heard urgently. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application.”
SERAP is asking for: A declaration that the failure of the Respondent to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts is unconstitutional and unlawful as it contradicts and in conflict with the duties and obligations of the Respondent under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
It is also seeking an order of mandamus compelling the respondent to urgently institute and undertake criminal proceedings against Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts.
According to the group, “Nigerian laws allow for criminal penalties and forfeiture if in the course of an investigation there are reasonable grounds to believe that a corruption offence has been committed, that is, the failure to explain the origin of the $15m given present or past emoluments, and other relevant circumstances.”
SERAP said that “Mrs. Jonathan has admitted that the four accounts belong to her and that she is the sole signatory to these accounts. The four companies and their directors have since pleaded guilty to the commission of the offence. The fact that the $15m found in the four accounts belong to Mrs. Jonathan raises serious suspicion or at the very least a prima-facie case of unexplained wealth/illicit enrichment, and imposes a duty on Mrs. Jonathan to explain and justify the source(s) of the $15m.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.