A former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, on Wednesday, got a reprieve as the Senate Committee investigating the petitions against the freezing of her accounts, asked that they should be unfrozen.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, after subjecting the management of four different banks, where the first lady had accounts, to questions directed that those accounts not encumbered by any legal process be re-opened.
The committee, headed by Sam Anyanwu, observed that some of the accounts were frozen based on some administrative lapses.
According to the committee, one of the accounts which is with the Stanbic IBTC Bank, had not breached any known law or due process.
The committee also asked that the account with Zenith Bank be re-opened because the court order which directed that it should be frozen had been vacated.
The committee members were particularly displeased with what they called arbitrary manner in which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) used the banks to close the accounts without complying with due process of law.
After listening to the committee, bank executives present informed the lawmakers that the court order vacating the earlier ones relied upon by the EFCC to close the accounts were not made available to them.
Consequently, they promised to re-open those accounts having been made to know of the vacation order.
The committee expressed shock that the banks could rely on ordinary letter by the EFCC anticipating a favourable ruling to freeze customers’ accounts.
The committee, chaired by Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (Abia-PDP), gave the directive at a hearing on a petition by Mrs. Jonathan.
The committee said the banks can only freeze accounts after they are presented with valid court orders to that effect.
Similarly, the panel asked Mrs. Jonathan’s lawyers and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to reconcile their positions on an alleged tax default of over N10 million.
FIRS had said Aridolf Resort Wellness and SPA, owned by Mrs Jonathan, failed to pay taxes in spite of serial reminders.
However, her lawyers insisted that they had paid all their taxes to the agency.