The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has asked the Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos not to unfreeze a bank account with a balance of N1.9billion allegedly belonging to Ms Bola Shagaya.
The anti-graft agency made this request in a counter-affidavit filed before the court on Monday, in response to an application filed by Shagaya, urging the court to give her access to the account, which had been frozen since December 2016.
They also claimed that the N1.9bn was the balance of a total of N3.3bn which Shagaya received as “founder’s fees” on behalf of a non-governmental organization – “Women for Change”, which was allegedly spearheaded by the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
According to the EFCC, the N3.3bn was realised through Shagaya’s “fraudulent activities” in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), where she allegedly “influenced the fraudulent allocation of Dual Purpose Kerosene to one Index Petrolube Africa Ltd., with the aid of the former first lady, Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan.”
The N3.3bn was said to have been paid by Index Petrolube Africa Ltd. and its sister company, Autodex Nigeria Limited. The companies allegedly belong to one Honourable Ezeani ThankGod.
The EFCC also claimed that out of the N3.3bn, Shagaya had “paid a cumulative sum of N1.2bn to the former first lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, through her account, ‘Women for Change Initiative’ account, to which the former first lady is the sole signatory.”
It said after paying N1.2bn to Patience, Shagaya kept the balance of N1.9bn for herself by “warehousing” same in her personal bank account.
The Commission said it was on this basis that it secured an order of Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos on December 29, 2016, to freeze the account.
It, therefore, begged Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the same court not to unfreeze the account, so that Shagaya would not “use this honourable court as a shield against criminal investigation and prosecution.”
Shagaya, through her lawyer, Mr Napoleon Emeaso-Nwachukwu, argued that she was not given a fair hearing before Justice Hassan who gave the freezing order.
She further urged Justice Oguntoyinbo to set Justice Hassan’s order aside and declare it unconstitutional, null and void on the basis that it violates her right to own movable property as guaranteed by Section 44(1)(k) of the I999 Constitution of Nigeria.
In a 19-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Sulaiman Aliu, Shagaya was worried that the ex parte freezing order made by Justice Hassan appeared, otherwise, to be final as the judge “did not give any return date for further proceedings and did not avail the applicant, who was the respondent therein and owner of the attached properties, a hearing.”
She said there was no criminal charge against her before and after the freezing order was made to justify the EFCC’s action, denying her access to her funds, a situation which she said has caused her business losses and opportunities.”
Justice Oguntoyinbo consequently set May 17 to deliver judgment on the issue.
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