Why Patience Jonathan is Taking Nigeria's Anti-Corruption Agency to Court

Patience Jonathan
Nigerian first lady Patience Jonathan (right) addresses an election rally in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, as her husband, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (left), looks on, on January 28, 2015. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria's former first lady has run out of patience with the country's anti-corruption agency.

The wife of former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is taking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to court after the agency froze four bank accounts allegedly containing $31.5 million, which the ex-first lady says belongs to her, AP reported on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Patience Jonathan, who has also previously served as a permanent secretary in Nigeria's southern Bayelsa state, claimed in a letter to the EFCC that $15 million of the money that was blocked in her accounts was required to settle medical bills abroad.

The four accounts allegedly blocked by the EFCC—which has yet to confirm whether it actually blocked them or how much money was blocked—reportedly belonged to four companies, and that the directors of the companies were named as domestic workers of a former aide to Goodluck, including a houseboy and a driver.

In their letter, the ex-first lady's lawyers claimed that she was the sole signatory to these accounts, and demanded that the EFCC lift a freeze that they claim had been in place since early July. The lawyers asked EFCC chief Ibrahim Magu to intervene directly to lift the order on Jonathan's accounts, accusing the agency of making efforts to "indirectly harass or harangue her and shortchange her of her personal funds in breach of her fundamental human rights," Nigeria's Punch newspaper reported.

Since ousting Jonathan's husband in the 2015 elections, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on government corruption. Several high-profile figures with close links to Goodluck's administration—including former national security advisor Sambo Dasuki—have been charged with corruption-related offenses. Dasuki has denied the charges against him.

The opposition People's Democratic Party have accused Buhari of conducting a witch hunt and failing to root out corrupt figures within his own All Progressives Congress.

Jonathan, who has two children with the former president, is no stranger to controversy. She was caught up in a row following Boko Haram's abduction of more than 250 girls from their school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, in April 2014. The then-first lady reportedly ordered the arrest of a Chibok activist, Naomi Mutah, following a meeting with the parents of the missing girls just weeks after their abduction.

Other Chibok activists at the meeting claimed that Jonathan accused them of fabricating the abductions in order to discredit her husband's government.