The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to issue a warrant of arrest against Ibrahim Magu, chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sequel to his persistent disregard to the series of invitation to attend investigate public hearing on the freezing of the accounts of former First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of the motion moved by Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers) who accused the commission of frustrating ongoing investigative hearing.
Chinda who frowned at the flagrant disregard for the rule of law, noted that the two years’ precautionary order placed on Jonathan’s accounts is unreasonable and that all the account that rarenot encumbered should be defreezed.
He also warned the Commission not to use discretionary measure to deal with any issue, adding that the banks should not to be a party to illegality.
“I apply for warrant of arrest on the EFCC chairman, specifically because he refused to appear before this committee with utmost disdain, no letter was written to excuse themselves. I repeat that application again. This country should be govern by law not by force. Even if police station requested for EFCC chairman to appear, he must comply. If EFCC has appeared we would have concluded this matter. So Mr Chairman, the EFCC must appear before this committee on the next adjourned date,” Chinda pleaded.
The House Committee on Public Petitions chaired by Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP-Abia) also directed all the banks housing various accounts owned by Patience Jonathan and her relatives to forthwith unfreeze all the accounts that are not encumbered by the Courts’ restriction order.
While ruling, Nkem-Abonta issued one month deadline to the counsels to Patience Jonathan, EFCC and all the banks to reconcile all the court orders with the view to identify and unfreeze those accounts that are not under prohibition.
Speaking earlier, Charles Ogboli, counsel to Jonathan’s wife, argued that some of the cheques presented were returned unattended to.
In it submission, Union Bank representative at the hearing disclosed that the bank has complied with the Committee’s directive to unfreeze all the accounts that are not with caveat.
On their parts, counsels to First Bank, Ecobank and First Bank argued that there was no directive from EFCCor Court order to unfreeze any of the accounts under prohibition.
First bank representative who presented a copy of EFCC order to freeze the accounts under investigation to the Committee, said: “we haven’t received any instructions that we should carry out the order to defreeze the account.”
Also speaking, Ecobank representative who noted that the bank has fully complied, explained that Patience Jonathan’s account is not under restriction, adding that the issue before the Committee “is a subject of appeal, hence the Bank cannot be in violation of the subsisting order. It’s an interim order.”
Kingsley Obiri, who spoke on behalf of Fidelity Bank told the committee that: “We do not have any account that we have restricted without any court order.
He however noted that the Commission had on 10th October 2016, served the Bank with a “court order to place restrictions on certain accounts. We are not aware that any of the orders states there has been vacated.”
Also speaking, Zenith Bank representative disclosed that “EFCC wrote us letters indicating those accounts and order from the Lagos Court.”
According to him, six accounts were placed under restriction, adding that subsequently in April 2017, “EFCC served us another order indicating that some of the orders have been vacated but they have appealed against the orders and motion of stay of execution.
“The instructions to freeze the account was received in September 2016.”
Also speaking, Diamond Bank representative said out of the four accounts being operated by Patience Jonathan, restriction was placed on two accounts while monies were withdrawn from the remaining two accounts.
She however noted that additional order was subsequently sent by EFCC to freeze the two other accounts.
In swift response to Ecobank submission, Jonathan’s counsel denied knowledge of any appeal on the subject matter, adding that the notice of discontinuance documents paraded by the Zenith counsel has been vacated by EFCC.
While noting that “no order was served to us,” Ogboli argued that the Commission cannot substitute letters for Court order, as there was no valid order from the court restraining withdrawal from the accounts.
He maintained that the motion to vacate the restriction order has was filed adding that the matter before court of appeal was Dame Patience and Lawadi Furniture but no other matter is before the court, adding that “there was a motion of stay of execution.”
Ogboli maintained the Patience Jonathan’s elder brother died as a result of the frustration experinced over the frozen accounts while over 2,000 employees salaries are yet to be paid.
While noting that all the issues relating with FIRS have been sorted out, Ogboli said: “I don’t know when salary account becomes subject of proceeds of crime.”
While ruling, Nkem-Abonta who urged the all the parties in dispute, warned that the parties “cannot drag us into court matters.”
He however directed that all the banks should reconcile with the Patience Jonathan’s counsel while the committee continues with its assignments.
To this end, the Committee resolved that all the parties should conclude the reconciliation within “one month and report back on 7th November, 2017 for the determination of this issue,” Nkem-Abonta ruled.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja