Nigeria anti-graft agency rejects ex-first lady’s “witch-hunt” accusation

by Reuters 0

Nigeria’s financial crimes agency on Wednesday brushed off allegations by the wife of the country’s former president that it had conducted a “witch-hunt” against her.

Patience Jonathan, whose husband Goodluck Jonathan was the president of Africa’s most populous country from 2010 to 2015, accused the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of an “orchestrated plan” to tarnish her reputation and that of her husband.

President Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015 after defeating Goodluck Jonathan in elections during which he vowed to crack down on corruption. Buhari said state coffers were virtually empty when he assumed the presidency.

Last year, the EFCC froze four U.S. dollar bank accounts that the ex-president’s wife said she owned. Her spokesman said in September 2016 that the accounts in total contained around $10 million – a third of the sum reported in the Nigerian press.

A legal case is continuing in the commercial capital Lagos over the funds but she does not face criminal charges.

“The case is before the court where she (Patience Jonathan) has the liberty to state any claim,” an EFCC spokesman said.

In a statement signed by her media aide and dated Oct. 2, Jonathan’s wife accused the EFCC’s acting chairman of an “unjustified witch-hunt and media propaganda” against her and her family.

“It is either the EFCC is now led by people who cannot conduct proper investigations, or they are deliberately feeding the public with false information,” said the statement.

“We believe that she is being systematically persecuted and punished because of her unflinching support for her husband during the 2015 elections.”

A number of former government officials have faced criminal charges, which they have denied, since Buhari came to power. However, there have been no convictions.

The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which was in power for 16 years prior to Buhari taking office, has accused the president of focusing on its members.

Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Mark Heinrich