Esther Oba, the younger sister to former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, has told the Federal High Court in Lagos that $429,381.87 (about N154,570,427.34) found in her bank account were donations and estacodes she earned while serving as a presidential aide.
Testifying in a forfeiture proceeding before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, Oba said the funds were not proceeds of crime.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is praying the court to order the final forfeiture of $8.4 million and N7.4 billion belonging to Mrs Jonathan.
Justice Olatoregun had directed parties to give oral evidence to explain the money’s ownership.
She ordered the funds’ temporary forfeiture to the Federal Government last April 20.
Mrs. Jonathan, Globus Integrated Services Limited, Finchley Top Homes Limited, Am-Pm Global Network Limited, Pagmat Oil and Gas Limited, Magel Resort Limited and Oba are the respondents.
Among the temporarily forfeited sums are N1.085 billion and N226.3 million found in Finchley’s Ecobank account and N39.4 million found in its Diamond Bank account, as well as N55.9 million found in Pagmat Oil and Gas’ Diamond Bank account.
EFCC said the money is “reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity”.
Also temporarily forfeited is $429,381.87 found in Oba’s Skye Bank account, which EFCC said is suspected to be “proceeds of unlawful activity.”
EFCC said the respondents were not into “any legitimate income-yielding business venture” to enable them earn such amounts.
The commission alleged that the firms were incorporated for the purpose of warehousing proceeds of unlawful activities for the former First Lady.
“The depositors into this account are domestic workers of State House in Abuja who were procured by the Dudafa Waripamo-Owei to deposit the funds sought to be forfeited in a bid to conceal the true origin of the funds,” the commission said.
Testifying at the hearing on Friday, Oba said she served as Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Household Administration.
The witness said the money in her account sought to be forfeited was accumulated estacodes she earned as well as donations made when she lost her mother.
“The account is mine and the money in it is mine,” she said.
Asked by her lawyer Ige Asemudara how she earned the money, she said: “When I worked with the former President from 2007 to 2015, they gave us estacodes whenever we travelled abroad.
“Also, when my mother died, I got a lot of gifts. My sister (Mrs Jonathan) introduced me to her friends and they gave me cash gifts and others.
“Thirdly, when I had my first child after 14 years of marriage without a child, I got a lot of gifts. Some were hard currencies, land, cars, anything anyone can give as a gift.”
Oba said former EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Lamorde advised her and her sister to open card accounts to save their dollar gifts rather than keep them at home in the State House.
“When Lamorde came to visit her, he advised her (Mrs Jonathan) to open a card account. I took the advice too and opened the Skye Bank account.
“When our mother died, she also received a lot of gifts, some in hard currencies. People came around because of her position and gave her gifts,” she said.
Oba added that the former First Lady also had a non-governmental organisation (NGO), called the Women for Change and Development Initiative, through which she received donations.
“Even governors made donations towards the NGO. The donations were voluntarily made,” she said.
Under cross-examination by EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo, Oba said her estacode was in cash.
“I got $600 per day whenever I travelled,” she said.
Asked how many times she travelled, she said she could not remember.
Asked why there were variations in her signatures, Oba said she had two signatures.
Oyedepo requested that a sheet of paper be given to Oba to sign both signatures.
After objections by other counsel, including Mrs Jonathan’s lawyer Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), Justice Olatoregun directed Oba to sign both signatures, which she did.
The paper on which she signed was admitted in evidence as an exhibit.
Earlier, Am-Pm Global Network Procurement and Supply Manager Achonye Obinna testified for the company, while Okwu Emmanuel, Sales and Procurement Manager, testified for Pagmat Oil and Gas.
Both claimed that the companies were into legitimate businesses and that the funds in their accounts were not proceeds of crime.
They tendered exhibits of the companies’ transactions, some running into hundreds of millions of naira.
For instance, Obinna tendered an invoice for goods worth N800 million, among others.
Under cross-examination, he said he knew nothing about the fund sought to be forfeited.
“I am not aware that the dollars were taken from the State House,” he said. Emmanuel also tendered an invoice for goods supplied to Mrs Jonathan’s NGO worth N1 billion.
He said he knew about the company’s account. “The money in the account is where our salaries are paid from,” he said.
Justice Olatoregun directed counsel to file their addresses.
She adjourned till June 27 for judgment.
EFCC, in a separate forfeiture proceeding also pending before Justice Olatoregun, is also seeking the final forfeiture of another $5.7 million and N2.4 billion belonging to Mrs Jonathan.
Judgment will be delivered in the case on June 24.