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$15m Scandal: ‘Dismiss Patience Jonathan’s Suit Because Her Group Is Unregistered’, SERAP Tells Court

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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 the 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 a 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 favor 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 because of the long period of her husband service as a public officer in Nigeria.”

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