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$15m: 'Dismiss Patience Jonathan's suit because her group is unregistered', SERAP tells Court

Source: pointblanknews.com
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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has responded to

the alleged 'campaign of calumny against Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan' by

asking the Federal High Court to “dismiss her suit with substantial cost.”

Mrs Jonathan and her group Union of Niger Delta Youth Organization for

Equity, Justice and Good Governance had accused SERAP in suit number

FHC/L/CS/1349/2016 dated 6th October 2016 of “using online, print and

electronic media to publish to the public unfounded and malicious

allegations that she stole $15m (US) and ought to be prosecuted.”

But SERAP in a preliminary objection dated 27 October 2016 and signed by

its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni stated that, “Patience Jonathan's

claims cannot be maintained because they are brought on her behalf by a

group that is unknown to law. Mrs Jonathan's group is not a registered

organization envisaged by law. This very point calls into question the

legal capacity to file this suit against SERAP, and the jurisdiction of

the court to entertain her suit.”
When the case came up for hearing before Justice C.M.A Olatoregun on

Friday 28 October 2016 SERAP was represented by its lawyer Babatunde

Ogala, former Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly's Committee on

Judiciary.
SERAP's preliminary objections read in part: “Since the process of court

has not been used bonafide and properly it is unnecessary to consider

whether or not there is a genuine case on the merits. An abuse of court

process is not the specie of sins called an irregularity. It is a much

more fundamental vice which is deserving of the punishment of dismissal.”

“The suit as constituted discloses no reasonable cause of action against

SERAP and as such unmaintainable. Mrs Jonathan and her group cannot and

has not articulated what legal wrong SERAP has done or what legal dispute

they have with SERAP. They have not shown that the matter is justiciable

and that a dispute exists between them and SERAP. Mrs Jonathan's case

against SERAP is therefore a flagrant abuse of court process and as such

must be dismissed.”
“The commencement of this suit through Originating Summons by Mrs Jonathan

and her group is wrong and faulty. Originating Summons is absolutely

inappropriate to commence an action where the facts are in dispute. It is

evident from the processes filed by Mrs Jonathan and her group that this

suit will definitely be disputed by SERAP.”
“No stamp and/or seal of the solicitors to Mrs Jonathan and her group is

fixed to the Originating Summons and as such is incompetent and not

cognizable by the court. A document filed shall be deemed not properly

signed or filed if it has no fixing of the seal and stamp, and the court

cannot consider such document.”
It would be recalled that one Union of Niger Delta Youth Organization for

Equity, Justice and Good Governance suing for themselves and on behalf of

Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan had sued SERAP on 6th October 2016 before the

Federal High Court in Lagos.
Mrs Jonathan and her group had asked the court for “an order of interim

injunction restraining SERAP from taking any further steps in further

vilification, condemnation and conviction of the Former First Lady Mrs

Dame Patience Jonathan, in all public media 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,

pending the hearing and determination of the Originating Summons.”

The suit is also seeking “an order directing SERAP to stay all action and

to desist forthwith from proceeding against Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan,

with any process whatsoever, pending the hearing and determination of the

Originating Summons.
The suit by Mrs Jonathan and her group also claimed that, “The campaign by

SERAP is in breach of Mrs Jonathan's right to be presumed innocent until

proved guilty under Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as

amended). The action by SERAP seeks to coerce the Attorney General of the

Federation to embark on a breach of the same right when the Attorney

General is in a better position than SERAP and the Court to know whether

or not there is any evidence of wrongdoing by Mrs Jonathan.”

“SERAP's action is blatant misuse of the processes of this Court. SERAP

therefore no longer deserves to continue as an incorporated entity and

ought to be dissolved. It is just and equitable to dissolve SERAP in the

circumstances of this case. Damages will not be adequate compensation for

the irreparable damage Mrs Jonathan will suffer if the application is not

granted. The Plaintiff undertakes as to damages in favour of SERAP in the

event the instant application ought not to have been granted.”

“There has been a running battle between the Economic and Financial Crimes

Commission (EFCC) and Mrs Jonathan with respect to the release of her

legitimately earned funds which were deposited in accounts opened in the

names of certain companies by one of her husband's aides without her

authorization.”
“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

utilize to upgrade family businesses and concerns which had been somewhat

dormant by reason 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 Naira. 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 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.”
“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.”

“When in 2016 Dudafa was arrested and detained she had no fear for the

funds as she realized that the funds could not be attributable to him once

it was discovered that she was the sole signatory to the said accounts. It

was therefore a rude shock to her when she discovered that a no

transaction order had been placed on the accounts by the EFCC in the

belief that the funds belonged to Dudafa.”
“She instructed her solicitors to further write to the EFCC to inform them

that the funds belong to her and that they formed a part of her legitimate

earnings over the last 15 years. It was this letter that was leaked by the

EFCC to the media that became sensationalized and led to the plaintiff's

vilification and attack by ignorant persons who had no information about

the matter.”
“SERAP is playing to the public gallery in order to gain the notoriety it

has achieved over the past years. SERAP has done this mostly by

intervening in high profile issues without regard to the rights of persons

it claims to protect. SERAP jumped into the fray of ignorant accusations

being made against Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan in the public media and has

begun a campaign of calumny against her using online, print and electronic

media to publish to the public unfounded and malicious allegations that

she stole the funds in question and ought to be prosecuted.”

“SERAP has maintained this position, notwithstanding the fact that there

is no evidence whatsoever by which Mrs Jonathan could be prosecuted for

obtaining the funds through unlawful means. In furtherance of this

campaign, SERAP, being in breach of its own objects for which it was

incorporated, has continued to proclaim the guilt of Mrs Jonathan in the

media and recently was widely reported in the news media to have commenced

a self-serving action to attempt to coerce the Attorney General of the

Federation to prosecute her.”
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