A former Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, on Monday, told a federal high court that money was given to former Gov. Ayo Fayose of Ekiti from the impress account of a former National Security Adviser, in June 2014.
Obanikoro gave evidence in the trial of Fayose before Justice Mojisola Olaterogun in Lagos.
Fayose is facing charges of N6.9 billion fraud.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Oct. 22, 2018, alongside a company Spotless Investment Ltd., on 11 counts.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.
The substantive trial began on Nov. 19, 2018, with the EFCC calling four witnesses.
On Monday, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) appeared for the EFCC, while Messrs Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) represented the first and second accused respectively.
Jacobs then called on Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness, to give evidence.
The counsel led the former minister in evidence.
Jacobs asked him where he was in 2014 and he told the court that he was the Minister of State for Defence.
The counsel asked him to tell the court what he knew about the case.
The witness testified that in June 2014, when Ekiti State governorship election was near, he received a call from the accused, enquiring from him if there was any ‘message’ for him from the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The witness said that he told Fayose that there was none but promised to check with the NSA and give Fayose feedback.
He told the court that eventually, the NSA confirmed to him that he had a “message” for the accused and that the funds would be made available.
The prosecutor then showed the witness exhibit E to confirm if it was the account to which the funds were transferred, and the witness replied: “Yes”.
The witness told the court that on June 13, 2014, and June 16, 2014, funds were posted into the account, adding that the funds were from the impress account of the NSA.
He said that he asked the accused how he wanted the money, and he told him that some amounts should be paid in Naira and others in dollars.
According to him, the money was eventually brought in a bullion van to the private wing of the Ikeja Airport, where one Agbele, sent by the accused, was on standby.
He testified that after confirmation from the accused, the money was taken to Ekiti.
The witness told the court that afterwards, he went to Ado-Ekiti to meet the accused in his hotel, known as Spotless, and gave him the dollar component which was five million dollars.
The prosecution counsel asked Obanikoro how many days it was to the Ekiti governorship election when he gave Fayose the money.
“About three days to the election,” the witness replied.
The prosecution also asked the former minister the source of the money.
“The NSA is the only person that can ascertain the source of the money; it is from the impress account of the NSA,” he said.
The counsel asked how the money was debited and the witness told the court that he gave instructions to the managing director of the Diamond bank, but was not available when the deductions were made.
When asked his connection with the accounts, Obanikoro said that it was used for security purposes, adding that he would not want to divulge further information on that.
After the evidence, the defence sought an adjournment to enable it to cross-examine the witness.
After several objections and counter objections, the judge granted an adjournment until Feb. 4, for cross-examination of Obanikoro.
Goje denies N25 billion corruption charge
Sen. Danjuma Goje, the senator representing Gombe Central at the National Assembly has said that at no time did he faced corruption charge totaling N25 billion. Goje disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday in a statement made available to newsmen.
The statement signed by Mr. Paul Erokoro, lawyer to the senator said the claim was “inaccurate and untrue.”
Erokoro was reacting to recent reports in the media that corruption charge being faced by the senator were withdrawn following his decision to step down from the Senate president race in June.
He insisted that the actual amount mentioned in the charge was N9 billion.
“The so-called “N25b fraud” that has been bandied about in the media, never featured in the case.
“The sum total of all the monies mentioned in the charge was about N8b.
“Of that total, N5billion was a loan taken from Access Bank for completion of infrastructural projects such as the Gombe airport, waterworks, numerous roads, Gombe Jewel Hotels, schools, hospitals, and rural electrification.
“The bank testified in Court that the money was properly utilized for the projects. The EFCC investigators also confirmed to the Court that the projects were all completed.”
On the N1 billion agricultural loan, he said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had testified in court that the loan was utilized in full compliance with the bank’s loan conditions.
“Other witnesses told the court that the governor never awarded any contract for the supply of food to Government House and Government Guest Houses during his tenure for the N1 billion alleged in the charge or for any other sum.
“On the N1.6 billion for the supply of English Dictionaries for primary and secondary schools, the Court was told that Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) gave its approval and that the contract was advertised in two newspapers and that reputable book publishers and suppliers tendered and that State Universal Basic Education Board awarded the contract to the lowest bidder.”
He said all the 19 counts of the charge around the above monetary issues collapsed during the trial.
He said because the prosecution witnesses completely exonerated the defendants was why the 19 counts were all dismissed by the court, on the ground of No Case submission.
Lai Mohammed to appear in court in fraud case
The immediate past Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has been scheduled to appear before a Federal High Court, Abuja, to explain his role in the alleged misapplication of N2.5 billion Federal Government Digital Switch-Over (DSO) program.
The planned appearance of Mohammed was revealed by the Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), who is prosecuting the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, over alleged abuse of office and money laundering.
ICPC had filed a 12-count charge before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa, against Kawu, Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade and other, saying that the NBC director general misled the former Minister into approving government funds to a private company.
“The former minister’s involvement had come under questioning following the discovery by ICPC during investigations, that a government White Paper that governs the execution of the DSO program was allegedly flouted by the head of NBC”, ICPC states in a statement Wednesday.
“Mohammed had however admitted in a statement to the Commission that he was misled by Kawu, as opined in court by a witness from ICPC, Osanato Olugbemi.”
Olugbemi, led in evidence by counsel to ICPC, Henry Emore, also told the court that the payment of N2.5 billion from NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited, as seed grant was suspicious because ICPC found out through its investigations that only government-owned company was approved to benefit from the grant according to the White Paper.
The court also heard that the processes that led to the final payment of the fund to the private company were shrouded in secrecy as revealed by the minute from an NBC emergency board management meeting where issues of carriage fees owed Pinnacle and not seed grant was discussed.
He told the court that 47 suspicious transactions were originated by the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications, Omoluwa, immediately after the receipt of the funds on June 2, 2017.
The transactions include payments of N363 million to one Idowu Olatunde, N274.4 million to one James Segun and N127 million to Dipo Onifade, the Chief Operating Officer of the company.
He informed the court that Omoluwa refused to explain the reasons for the payments to Olatunde and James when asked by ICPC, but Onifade explained that he received the N127 million as legal fees he rendered to Pinnacle Communications Limited.
EFCC intensifies war against fraudsters
The Ibadan zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said it recovered N116,945,981 and 65 vehicles from various operations in the last six years. Other foreign currencies it also recovered within the period include US$39,125; £50 and 1,800 Euros.
The commission spoke through the Head of its Ibadan Zonal office, Mr. Friday Ebelo when he addressed reporters at the Iyaganku, Ibadan zonal office to update the public on the successes achieved by the anti-graft agency within the period.
Explaining how the recoveries were made, Ebelo said the money was partly forfeited to the Federal Government and partly to individuals who were defrauded.
He said: “This briefing is essentially organized to share with you the successes of the commission’s Ibadan zonal office in the last six months.
“With the unwavering support of our Acting Chairman and other stakeholders, the zone has recovered remarkable successes in the period under review.
“This year, the zone received 481 petitions out of which 117 were rejected. About 364 were approved for investigations and we were able to secure 83 convictions out of the 107 cases filed at different courts within the zone. That represents 83 percent of the total number of cases filed.
“From January to June 21, an aggregate sum of N116,945,981.68 was recovered. Others, which are foreign currencies, include $39,125, £1,800 and £50. Also recovered are 65 vehicles – 54 registered and 11 unregistered.”
Decrying the increase in the number of suspects brought to the commission’s office, Ebelo urged parents to monitor their children and wards.
He noted that those in higher institutions, especially, engaged in cybercrimes at an alarming rate.
“I want to say that in the last six months, going by the crime indices done by the commission, most of the suspects brought in are young Nigerians with potentials to be great in life.
“It is not enough to send kids to school; parents should pay unscheduled visits to their schools, especially higher institutions of learnings, and see what the children are doing. That will help to nip in the bud any criminal tendency they might be showing or engaging in.
“Also, we must be wary of using or giving our bank accounts to people around to use to receive funds. Many innocent people are falling victims and it is increasingly becoming difficult to prove, especially when they are the ones who also help them withdraw cash which could have been proceeds of crimes. Parents must monitor their wards and ensure that they do not keep bad company.”
EFCC investigating Okorocha
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed that it is investigating the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha. The anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.
The Acting Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Ibrahim Magu confirmed the investigation of the governor by the EFCC in an interview with Channels Television. Asked if an investigation is ongoing regarding the governor, he responded, “definitely”.
“Of course, we are doing a couple of checks and investigations here and there. We are investigating almost everybody,” he said.
He said the commission has to get to a certain level before it can disclose any information about an ongoing investigation.
Magu explained that this was necessary to prevent any action that can jeopardize or interfere with the process of the inquiry.
He said though he was aware of reports of the investigation on the social media, the details the anti-graft agency has is different from what is in the public space.
The anti-graft czar granted the interview in the United Kingdom where he traveled to meet with investigators assisting the federal government in solving cases of money laundering and financial crimes.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.
The EFCC further stated that N8 billion Paris Club loan refunded to the state for the payment of salaries was mismanaged by Okorocha.
The EFCC’s Zonal Head for South-east, Usman Imam, said this during a chat with journalists.
Imam said their timely intervention saved the state over N5 billion that would have been deployed in vote-buying by the Okorocha’s administration during the last elections.
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