$20m Accounts: Patience Jonathan May Forfeit N10bn Hotel to FG
Dame Patience Jonathan, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, may forfeit to the Federal Government, a N10bn hotel allegedly belonging to her if she fails to explain how she came about some funds allegedly traced to her accounts.
“This is one of the questions she may have to answer as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission continues investigation into the $20m found in five accounts she has laid claim to,” a source told our correspondent on Monday.
The hotel, which is known as Aridolf Resort Wellness and Spa, Yenagoa, was inaugurated by Patience in April 2015, barely a month before the end of her husband’s tenure.
According to a UK business newspaper, The Financial Times, the hotel, which has imported state-of-the-art furniture, can compete with other luxury hotels in developed countries.
The report dated April 21, 2015, states in part, “The Aridolf Hotel in Yenagoa is an unlikely monument to kitsch on a reclaimed swamp in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta. In the lobby, Louis XIV furniture is accompanied by bowls of plastic fruit, faux Dutch landscapes and a grotesquely gaudy chandelier. The hotel is redolent of the riches on display in a region that for half a century has generated the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth.
“The Aridolf, which is owned by Patience Jonathan, wife of the former President, is symptomatic of how superficial progress has been in addressing the festering sense of marginalisation in the region, which remains desperately impoverished despite benefiting from a tide of petrodollars in recent years.”
The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, told our correspondent that the EFCC had the right to investigate anybody who was living above his or her means.
He said anybody, who failed to do so, could risk forfeiture of properties believed to have been obtained through stolen funds or could lose funds traced to him or her.
Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, wondered how Patience, who was a civil servant and never held any government position, could have billions in her bank accounts.
He said, “The EFCC and ICPC Acts have provisions under which they can ask the court to freeze the account of a person if a person’s capacity to earn is below the amount of money that the person appears to have.
“If you are living a lavish lifestyle and it appears you don’t have the means to have acquired the property and the wealth you have, the EFCC is free to probe you.”
Patience recently sued Skye Bank and the EFCC for freezing four company accounts which have a balance of $15m.
The former first lady also has another account with the title, ‘Patience Ibifaka Jonathan’ which has a balance of $5m. The account is, however, still active.
Four of the accounts belonged to Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited.
The anti-graft commission believed that a former Special Adviser to the President on Domestic Affairs, Waripamowei Dudafa, forged the identities of his domestic servants to open the four accounts while the fifth account was opened in the name of Patience.
The domestic servants were, however, denied access to the accounts while a platinum card was issued to Patience.
The EFCC froze the accounts of the four companies which were initially believed to be owned by Dudafa until Patience stated last week that the four accounts belonged to her.
The EFCC is set to arraign Dudafa and some bank officials for alleged fraud.
However, Mr. Joseph Okobieme, the lawyer to Demola Bolodeoku, one of the bank officials, said his client did not take part in forging the signatures of the domestic servants/directors.
He said, “I don’t know why he was included in the charge. He has no business in this transaction. He was merely doing his job as a banker. The allegation they levelled against him was not that he benefitted from the proceeds of the alleged transaction.
“There is a mere allegation of forgery of certain documents which are not within his power to have forged because he is not a director of the company.
“These four companies were duly registered by the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) with the names and the directors on record. So, if they say the names of these directors were forged, it is not possible for my client to have forged them. Clearly, he was not the author of the documents.”
He believed that the four domestic servants should be charged by the EFCC as well.
NIMC: Presidential Council Faults N1000 NIN Fee, Demands Review
The recently announced N1000 National Identification Number (NIN) verification fee for the application, issuance and renewal of international passports by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has been criticised.
The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, PEBEC faulted the mandated charge and called for a review.
Investors King had earlier reported that NIMC declared that Nigerians living in the country will pay N1000, while Nigerians residing in other African countries will pay $3 or its equivalent in other currencies and those in other continents across the world will pay $10 or its equivalent in other countries as NIN verification fee for application, issuance and renewal of their international passports.
Reacting to the development, the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business/PEBEC Secretary, Jumoke Oduwole, in a statement, emphasised the need for a review to make citizens enjoy quicker and less expensive government services.
Oduwole, who commended the collaboration between NIMC and Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), said such a partnership will enhance passport services.
She noted that stakeholders are not impressed with the extra charge to be paid for the NIN verification before they can process their passports.
According to her, the outline of the Business Facilitation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022 signed into law by the President Muhammadu Buhari on February 8, 2023 states that where an applicant requires the service of a ministry, department or agency, the MDA involved is mandated to conduct the necessary verification or certification from relevant MDAs, in respect of the applicant.
Investors King understands that PUBEC was set up in 2016 by President Buhari with the aim of curbing hectic bottlenecks and bureaucratic limitations accompanied with owning and managing business enterprises in Nigeria.
The chairman of the council is the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. PUBEC has since its existence periodically issued EO1 Compliance Reports containing monthly reports of Ministries, Departments and Agencies submitted to the council.
INEC Considers Postponement of Governorship and State Assembly Elections Amidst Legal Battles
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is currently considering the possibility of postponing the upcoming governorship and state assembly elections, following the legal battles that have arisen from the recent presidential and national assembly polls.
INEC is expected to make a decision on the issue during a meeting of its national commissioners, scheduled for Wednesday night.
Investors King understands that the legal battles revolve around the extraction of data embedded in the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) and the inspection of other election materials.
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, and the standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, have filed similar applications seeking to obtain the certified true copy (CTC) of all the data in the BVAS.
INEC has opposed the applications, arguing that granting them would affect its preparations for the forthcoming elections.
Tanimu Inuwa, counsel to INEC, has asked the court to vary the orders granting permission to Obi and Atiku to inspect all the sensitive materials used in the conduct of the presidential election.
However, the court has refused to grant INEC’s request, stating that the commission failed to specify which of the orders it wished to vary.
The court has clarified that it granted Obi and LP permission to do electronic scanning and/or make photocopies of voter registration and ballot papers used in the conduct of the election, and not permission to access the database of INEC, as misconceived by the electoral body.
Given the legal battles and the possible impact on preparations for the forthcoming elections, INEC is now considering postponing the governorship and state assembly elections.
This decision, if taken, would have significant implications for the electoral process and could further heighten tensions in the country.
The ongoing legal battles highlight the need for all stakeholders to work together to ensure a free, fair and credible electoral process. It is essential that INEC and other stakeholders prioritize the integrity of the electoral process over political expediency and work towards resolving these legal disputes in a timely and transparent manner.
FG Estimates N869bn For 2023 Census, Seeks Financial Aid
The Federal Government has totalled the fund needed for the conduct of the 2023 population and housing census as N869bn.
Investors King reports that Nigerians and organisations have been called upon to donate N327.2bn out of the estimated cost as the government already made provision for N291.5bn.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, during a dialogue with partners for the census in Abuja on Monday, stated that the FG plans to set up a basket fund to collect donations.
Agba noted that the basket fund will be coordinated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) who will provide technical and financial support to the National Population Commission (NPC).
He appealed to well-meaning citizens and private sectors to either donate cash or essential materials needed for the national census.
The minister gave the breakdown of the estimated cost; “The total requirement for the census (including post census activities) is N869bn ($1.88bn): census requirement – N626bn ($1.36bn) which is about $6 per capita (just slightly above the threshold of up to $5 per capita); Post-Census (up to 2025) is N243bn ($527m).
“So far, the government has committed N291.5bn ($632m) to the census, making it 46 per cent of total funding for the census. An additional (immediate) sum of N327.2bn ($709.9m) is required to complete the census.”
Agba stated that the national headcount was scheduled to hold in 2022 but was shifted to March, 2023, adding that there is a recommendation for it to be moved to May 2023.
He recalled that the last census was done in 2006 and the next ought to be held in 2016 as recommended by the United Nations for Decennial census.
In her remarks, the Resident Representative, UNFPA, Ms Ulla Mueller, harped on the need to take the census seriously to stop guessing the present population of the country.
She stated that UNFPA will support the census exercise financially and technically to the tune of $10m.
Also, the Chairman, Heirs Holdings Group and Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony Elumelu, on behalf of the Organised Private Sector and African Philanthropic Organisations spoke on the urgent need for the census to accurately plan based on the needs of the citizens to boost the nation’s development.
“For me, this task is critical to our country’s future – if we do not know our population, we cannot properly plot our developmental path, our economic growth, our society’s goals. Credible demographic data is of profound importance for the public and private sectors alike. We all know we live in a data-driven world.
“The upcoming census is a significant milestone in Nigeria’s development, as it provides an opportunity to collect accurate and reliable data on the country’s population and housing, which will serve as a vital tool for policymakers, private sector actors, and civil society organisations,” he said.
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