The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has found a fresh $429,381.87 (about N154,570,427.34) in a bank account belonging to Esther Oba, the younger sister to former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan. Oba was a Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Household Administration for four years. The EFCC last Friday told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos that the money was “reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity”. It asked the court to seize it and give it to the Federal Government.
But Oba told the judge that she did not steal the money, but that the money was donations and estacodes she earned during the period she worked in Jonathan’s home. Testifying at the hearing on Friday, Oba 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. Justice Olatoregun directed counsel to file their addresses and adjourned till June 27 for judgment. The 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. Patience Jonathan. Judgment will be delivered in the case on June 24.