An investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday narrated how a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, and others allegedly collected N650 million illegally in 2015.
Appearing before a Federal High Court in Lagos, Usman Zakari said his investigation revealed that the N650 million was part of a total sum of N23 billion which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, warehoused in the bank.
The EFCC had preferred a fraud and money laundering charge of N650 million against Mrs. Akinjide and two others over the campaign money for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State in 2015.
In 2017, the ex-minister was arraigned and remanded.
According to Mr. Zakari, who testified Friday as the second prosecution witness (PW2) in the case, Mrs. Akinjide and two others collected the cash at the Dugbe branch of Fidelity Bank in Ibadan on the standing instruction of Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
He said he found that the N23 billion was the naira equivalent of a total of $115.01 million, which the former minister collected from three oil marketers and one Lano Adesanya in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, the investigator said his investigation followed “a top classified Category A intelligence” about a meeting convened by the former oil minister in her house in December 2014, which was attended by Mrs. Allison-Madueke, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, and some oil marketers.
According to Mr. Zakari, Mrs. Madueke informed Mr. Okonkwo that the oil marketers would be bringing different dollar sums to him, which she instructed the bank chief to help her keep in the bank’s vault until further instructions.
The investigator said pursuant to the meeting, one Auctus Integrated Limited took $17.8 million to the bank while another company, Northern Belt Oil and Gas, took $60 million to the bank. The third company which he named as one Mid-Western Oil Services Limited also paid $9.5 million.
He said, “An individual, Lano Adesanya, brought the sum of $1.8 million; our findings further revealed that the three oil marketers made payment of the sum of $89 million and some fractions. Investigations further revealed that the then petroleum minister’s aides made available $25 million and some fractions in suitcases, which were warehoused in Fidelity Bank’s cash vault.
“Upon the receipt of the money by Fidelity Bank, the then petroleum minister instructed Fidelity Bank to convert the said amount into naira, precisely on March 26, 2015. Fidelity Bank complied with the instruction; the said amount was converted into naira to the tune of N23 billion and some fractions.
“After the conversion, the then petroleum minister, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, instructed Fidelity Bank to pay the 1st defendant (Akinjide) and the 2nd defendant (Senator Ayo Adeseun) and one Mr. Yinka Taiwo the sum of N650 milliom, through her son, Ogbonna Madueke.
“The 1st defendant and the 2nd defendant and Mr. Yinka Taiwo then proceeded to Fidelity Bank, Dugbe branch in Ibadan, Oyo State and signed a receipt of payment individually for the collection of N650 million.
He explained that they signed for the money and took it to the residence of the Mrs. Akinjide.
“The defendants,” he continued,”collected cash payment of N650 million without going through any financial institution, an amount which was more than the amount authorised by law to be paid in cash.”
He told the court that upon being interrogated, Mrs. Akinjide and Mr. Adeseun admitted collected cash payments in that amount.
But the defence counsels, Bolaji Ayorinde, Michael Lana and Akinola Oladeji, urged the court to expunge Mr. Zakari’s entire evidence for being hearsay because the investigator could not give evidence about the meeting in Mrs. Diezani’s residence and the payments of money, which he did not personally witness.
“I’m placing reliance on Section 38 of the Evidence Act, which says that hearsay evidence is not admissible,” Mr. Oladeji argued, adding that the persons competent to testify about the meeting were Mrs. Diezani, Fidelity Bank’s MD and the oil marketers who were present.
He said since it was not established that the people who attended the meeting were dead, Mr. Zakari could not testify about the meeting. Both Messers Ayorinde and Lana agreed with him.
But the prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo, maintained that Mr. Zakari’s evidence was not hearsay but his personal findings in the course of his investigation.
He said, “The evidence given by PW2 of his investigative findings cannot be hearsay. In view of the fact that the evidence that PW2 gave was the discovery he made in the course of his investigation, the law is settled that such evidence cannot amount to hearsay.”
He thereafter urged the judge to dismiss the objection.
But judge, Muslim Hassan adjourned the case till March 23, 2018 for further proceedings.
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