Ex-Nigerian First Lady Patience Jonathan’s patience is being tested by a campaign of calumny being waged against her. Since her husband left office in 2015 she has been under constant attack merely because she recieved some small gifts from friends and well-wishers while her husband served in government. The Nigerian NGO Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project is trying to force the authorities to open a criminal case against her and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigeria’s anticorruption agency, wants to seize the gifts.
It is easy to see why the attacks are testing Patience’s patience. The gifts were all small, some as little as $800, and altogether they total just $15 million. Moreover, as she has repeatedly explained, she had nothing to do with the money being deposited into bank accounts in someone else’s name. An assistant did that without telling her, and in any event why does it matter? She was the only one authorized to write checks on the account.
Thankfully for the former first lady, members of the Union of Niger Delta Youth Organisation for Equity, Justice and Good Governance have come to her defense. In a complaint filed in early October for themselves and Mrs. Jonathan the group asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to enjoin the NGO SERAP from “taking any further steps in further vilification, condemnation and conviction of the Former First Lady Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan . . . and in the use of the judicial process for that purpose by the extremely publicized pursuit of any application for the coercion of the Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute the Plaintiff/Applicant for owning legitimate private property . . . .” The group’s complaint seeking the injunction against SERPA goes on to detail just how unjust the criticism of Dame Patience is –
“The funds in question were legitimate gifts from her friends and well-wishers over the last 15 years which she had been saving in order to utilise to upgrade family businesses and concerns which had been somewhat dormant by reasons of the long period of her husband service as a public officer in Nigeria.
“The gifts were given in small contributions by several persons, some of whom she cannot even now recall over this period of 15 years sometimes in as small a gift as N250,000 [GAB note ~ USD $800.]
“In order to preserve the value of these funds, which she did not require for any purpose at the time, she changed them into foreign exchange and kept them as cash for a long period in her home safe in Port Harcourt and Abuja.
“It was when the family home in Otuoke was burnt down by hoodlums under the instigation of political adversaries in 2010 that she began to think about banking these gifts, which had now grown to large sums in the United States dollars.
“In 2010 she therefore summoned one of her husband’s domestic aids, Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel Dudafa, to assist her in opening bank accounts into which the funds could be deposited. [GAB note. Background on Dudafa is here and here.]
“Unknown to her, the said Dudafa, in a bid to be discreet about the owner of the funds, decided to bank the funds in the names of companies owned by him.
“When she discovered this, she was constrained to continue with the names of the companies when she was advised that it did not make any difference as to the ownership of the funds since the director of the company would appoint her as sole signatory to the accounts in question.”
GAB has been unable to independently verify the account recounted above. But if true, it trusts the High Court in Lagos, the Attorney General of Nigeria, and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission will ensure ex-First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan receives precisely the treatment she merits under Nigerian law.
(Full disclosure: This writer commissioned a paper by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni on the landmark decision the group secured from the ECOWAS Court of Justice declaring that the right to education is a legally enforceable human right in Nigeria and that widespread corruption in the Nigerian education system had denied Nigerian citizens that right. A link to Mr. Mumuni’s paper will be posted shortly. )