By Umar Muhammad Puma
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to submit the list of accounts belonging to Mrs. Patience Jonathan that are not under litigation before the court.
Mrs Jonathan, a former first lady, has accused the commission of repeatedly faillling to obey court orders, directing the commission to unfreeze her accounts.
The committee while at a hearing in view of allegation brough before it by Mrs Jonathan that the EFCC has repeatedly failed to obey court orders, and directed that it lifts all existing ban on bank accounts belonging to the petitioner in the absence of any litigation.
EFCC lawyer, Mr. Ojogbane Johnson had in the course of the hearing maintained that reasons behind the commission’s decision to keep the accounts forzen was because they are still under investigation.
He said such ongoing investigation is why the commission appealed against court rulings directing that it de-freezes those accounts.
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.
The lawyer to Patience Jonathan told the committee that the commission’s position that some of the matters are in 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federal High Court In Lagos was challenged and when we filed our submission, they failed to respond and the matter was withdrawn by the judge.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”.
The committe chairman, Rep Uzoma Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia), waded in saying that the EFCC lawyer should be careful 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.
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 investigating and not witch-hunting.
“So that’s why it’s very important that you tell Nigerians how many of the accounts are under litigation following completion of your investigation”, he said.