A Human Rights Watch and Anti-corruption activist, Charles Ogboli, has faulted the story of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the freezing of dollar accounts belonging to the wife of former Nigerian President, Patience Jonathan.
Mr Ogboli said that the story of the EFCC was false and did not reflect the true picture of the incident.
This is coming days after Mrs Jonathan filed a 200 million fundamental rights enforcement suit against Skye Bank Plc, following the freezing of four bank accounts.
She had claimed the EFCC had used the decision to inconvenience and embarrass her.
The four accounts, lodged with Skye Bank Plc, are in the name of four companies which is said to have a balance of $31.4 million
Giving his opinion on the issue, Mr Ogboli told Channels Television that “it is worrisome that the information the EFCC is circulating is not the true picture of what really happened.
“I am against anything that has to do with corruption and I believe that it is my duty to fight for an innocent person” .
Giving further explanation on the incident, he said that the former First Lady, as far back as 2013, had requested that she should be permitted to carry cash on a medical trip abroad.
“She wanted to travel out of the country for medical attention and she sought permission to travel with cash.
“She contacted the former Special Adviser (SA) to President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs and he said she should seek EFCC’s authorisation.
“She contacted top officials of the EFCC and they advised that she should open an account.
“She asked the SA to the President to contact a bank for the account.
“The SA came in with two Skye Bank officials. They brought forms and she filled them with her personal data. No companies were involved.
“After some days they came back with cards and she started operating the accounts.
“One of the cards had her name while the others have the name of her mother.
“When she noticed that three of the cards she was having were in companies’ names, she reported and complained bitterly. The Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs was informed. Mrs Jonathan called the SA and asked that the company names should be changed,” he explained.
The anti-corruption activist said the bank, however, did not effect the change that Mrs Jonathan had requested for.
Mr Ogboli further told Channels Television that the explanation he was given was based on his discussion with the former First Lady whom he said he had direct discussions with.
He stated that the EFCC had made some revelations, claiming that it was money laundering, and insisted that it was not the true story.
The activist, however pointed out that the action of the bank to use the names of companies – Pluto Properties, Sea Gate Properties, Trans Oceans Properties – which he claimed Mrs Jonathan had no affiliation with, could be a deliberate action.
He further pointed out that before a bank could open a company account, the nation’s laws mandated them to ensure that necessary documents that would show the registration status of the company were documented.
Mr Ogboli, however, said that the accounts had the BVN personal data of the former First Lady.
“The SA went ahead to use companies’ names to open accounts which the first lady discovered and said I am not part of this. I am not a director of these companies neither am I a shareholder. I did not present any certificate of incorporation and I did not ask the bank to open an account,” he said, quoting Mrs Jonathan.
He said that the wife of the former President discovered the company accounts between 2013 and 2014.
According to him, Mrs Jonathan and her mother were the signatories of the accounts in the company names.
The activist insisted that the monies in the accounts should be left for the First Lady, asking the anti-graft agency to go to the bank and request for the forms filled by Mrs Jonathan.
On his part, a lawyer that has handled cases for the EFCC, Wahab Shittu, dismissed the statements made by Mr Ogboli as hearsay.
“Most of what he said there amounts to hearsay. There is no prove that he was a witness to what transpired as at the time the accounts were opened,” Mr Shittu insisted.
He said that the EFCC was acting in line with its mandate to locate the origin of funds.
“If the first lady is saying the money belongs to her, this is a democracy where rule of law is recognised, she has a duty to come and furnish details and particulars to establish the ownership,” the lawyer stated, insisting that Mrs Jonathan had the opportunity of explaining the issue to the EFCC.