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Buhari, Boss Mustapha gave Emefiele approval to pay $6.2m to election observers, says EFCC witness

Buhari, Boss Mustapha gave Emefiele approval to pay $6.2m to election observers, says EFCC witness
February 12
14:59 2024

Onyeka Ogbu, a deputy director, branch operations at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), says Godwin Emefiele, former governor of the apex bank, got the approval of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari and Boss Mustapha, former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), for the disbursement of $6,230,000 “to international election observers”.

Ogbu spoke while testifying before a federal capital territory high court in Maitama, as the first prosecution witness in the suit against Emefiele.

Leading the witness in evidence on Monday, Rotimi Oyedepo, EFCC lawyer, asked Ogbu to speak on certain documents regarding the case. 

The documents, according to the witness, related to the disbursement of the said $6,230,000 funds.

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“On February 8, 2023, request for payment of $6,230,000 was brought to my attention by the banking services department,” the witness said.

“When I received the document, I found that it was from the Banking Services Department.

“The director, banking services signed the memo, and the content of the memo contained an instruction for the Branch Controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the secretary to the government of the federation, with the identity and the name of the person mentioned.

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“The memo said the payment was for international election observers and that we should debit an account — Naira Forex Account — with the naira equivalent of $6,230,000.

“The memo also said that the money will be refunded in the second quarter of 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

“It went on to say ‘find attached the approval of the governor of the CBN for the payment’.

“The attachment had the approval of the governor of the CBN. It also had the approval of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the request letter from the secretary to the government of the federation.

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“Having gone through the documents and satisfied, I minuted on it and sent for processing and disbursement which was complied with.”

PAYMENT WAS MADE

On whether the money was released, the witness said: “Payment was eventually made. The $6,230,000 was paid on the 8th of February 2023. The payment was in cash”.

Emefiele was suspended on June 9, 2023, by President Bola Tinubu, who also ordered a probe into his tenure as CBN governor.

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On September 17, reports of Emefiele’s resignation emerged but the federal government remained quiet on the issue.

On September 22, Isa AbdulMumin, CBN’s director of corporate communications, confirmed his resignation while announcing that Olayemi Cardoso has assumed office as the acting governor of the CBN.

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TRIAL ADJOURNED

At the point of tendering the documents, the prosecution counsel noticed that two of the documents were not properly certified. Oyedepo then sought a stand-down to enable them to get the certified true copies. 

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However, Matthew Burkaa, counsel to Emefiele, opposed the application.

He said an adjournment was better to allow the prosecution to get all the certified true copies of all the needed documents and also for the witness to be cross-examined. 

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After listening to their submissions, Hamza Muazu, the presiding judge, adjourned until Tuesday for the continuation of the trial.

BACKGROUND

The federal government, on January 18, amended the criminal charges filed against the former CBN governor.

The charges, formerly six counts, were increased to 20 counts.

The amended charges border on alleged criminal breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, procurement fraud and conspiracy to commit a felony.

At the previous hearing, the court agreed to vary Emefiele’s bail condition which previously restricted him to the FCT.

The court granted the application permitting the former CBN governor to travel within Nigeria but restrained him from leaving the country during the pendency of the case.

In some of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Emefiele, in January 2023, forged a document titled: “RE: PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE ON FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVER MISSIONS,” dated 26 January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.

The EFCC said Emefiele made the claim despite knowing it to be false and committed an offence contrary to section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.

According to the amended charge marked CR/577/2023, Emefiele, on February 8, 2023, connived with one Odoh Ocheme, who is now on the run, to obtain $6.2m from the CBN, claiming that the SGF requested it “vide a letter dated 26th January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201″.

Meanwhile, the EFCC has declared Magaret, Emefiele’s wife, wanted, for money laundering.

The anti-graft agency published photos and details of Margaret and three others in a notice on Friday.

The three other persons were identified as Eric Ocheme Odoh, Anita Joy Omoile, and Jonathan Omoile.

In the notice signed by Dele Oyewale, the agency’s head of media and publicity, EFCC said the quartet allegedly colluded with the former CBN governor to divert “huge sums” from federal government coffers.

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