“I was investigated for being privy to illicit transfer of funds,” — Obanikoro admits

Former Ekiti governor, Fayose, arrives court for his criminal trial
Former Ekiti governor, Fayose, arrives court for his criminal trial

A former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, on Tuesday admitted before a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court that he was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for being privy to illicit transfer of funds.

Mr Obanikoro made the statement while giving evidence in the criminal trial of the immediate-past Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, facing charges of an alleged N6.9billion fraud.

Mr Fayose was arraigned by the EFCC on October 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on 11 counts.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charge, and the court had granted him bail in the sum of N50 million, with one surety in like sum.

His trial had commenced on November 19, 2018, with the EFCC calling four witnesses, while the court had then adjourned for the continuation of trial.

On Tuesday, Rotimi Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, appeared for the EFCC, while Messrs Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) represented the first and second defendants respectively.

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Mr Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness, who began his evidence on January 21, and was cross-examined on February 4, mounted the witness box in continuation of his cross-examination.

Under cross-examination by the second defendant’s counsel, Mr Ojo, Mr Obanikoro told the court that during his tenure as a Commissioner in Lagos in charge of Home Affairs and Culture, he had interfaced with various security agencies in the discharge of his duties.

According to him, he had sourced for a security outfit known as Sylva Mcnamara, owned by one Kareem Taiwo, to the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), when the need arose to provide for security operations in Lagos State.

He said the outfit performed credibly and did a good job.

Mr Ojo then asked the witness, “you said Kareem Taiwo did a good job,’’ witness replied “Yes’’.

Mr Ojo: “Then are you not surprised that a petition was still written by the NSA against both of you, for having gotten money from the NSA illicitly?’’

Mr Obanikoro replied in the affirmative and added: “And I state that I deserve a medal of honour for the great work I did in securing Lagos State then’’.

Mr Ojo: “’I’m sure you are aware of the offences you were alleged to have committed, for which you were granted bail by the EFCC,’’ witness replied `Yes’.

The defence counsel then asked the witness to tell the court the offence.

Mr Obanikoro replied: “It was based on a petition sent by the NSA that about N4.6 billion or thereabout was sent in an account operated by me, without proper documentation’’.

Defence counsel: “Will I be right to say that the allegations consisted of fraud?’’

Witness: “Until I see it.’’

Defence Counsel asked: “Are you still on administrative bail?’’

Witness replied: “Well, I have not been discharged, to the best of my knowledge.’’

Defence counsel: “It was also alleged that there were no approvals for the funds alleged to have been transferred to a number of companies listed in exhibit I, including Sylva Mcnamara,’’ the witness replied: “correct’’.

Defence counsel: “So I suggest to you that at all material time, you were being investigated to have been privy to the illicit transfer of funds.’’

Witness: “Correct.’’

Defence counsel: “Till today, the allegation of illicit transfer of funds has not been withdrawn against you by the EFCC’’.

Witness: “To the best of my knowledge, you are correct’’.

Defence counsel: “Did you produce any document to show the relationship between Kareem and the Office of the NSA, contrary to allegations that the NSA does not know him?’’

The witness replied: “No’’, and added that the Office of the NSA had responsibility for coordination of security across the nation, some of which are clandestine and not documented.

On who gave instructions to Diamond Bank for the release of N1.2 billion, Mr Obanikoro replied that “I was the only person that gave instructions to the bank’’.

Defence counsel: “Can you tell the court by what means you gave the instruction and to whom?’’

Witness: “Verbally, to the then MD of Diamond Bank, Mr Oti’’.

Defence counsel: “Was there any time your verbal instruction was reduced into writing?’’

Witness: “No’’.

Defence counsel: “So, I suggest to you that what you are telling this court is that there is no written record for the release of N1.2billion by the bank’’.

Witness: “Because of the nature of the job’’.

Defence counsel: “Look at exhibit E9 -E11’’ and mention the names of the Directors of Silva Mcnamara’’.

Witness : “Ezekwe Ikenna, Oshodi Idowu, and Adebiyi Elizabeth’’.

Defence Counsel: “Who owns House 9, Layi Bembem, Parkview. Ikoyi?’’ Witness: “That is my house’’.

Mr Ojo then said, I suggest to you that Ikenna Ezekwe lived in that house at one time or the other,”

Witness: “Correct’’.

Subsequently, Mr Ojo sought to tender an extrajudicial statement made by the then special assistant to Mr Obanikoro, Justin Erukaa, but the prosecutor raised an objection.

Following the objection by the prosecution, Mojisola Olatoregun, the judge, adjourned the case until February 6 for counsel to address the court on the admissibility of an extrajudicial statement.

According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and one Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of five million dollars, (about N1.8 billion) from the then Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.

He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in his Zenith Bank account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain in their Zenith and FCMB accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million, which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Besides, the accused was alleged to have used the aggregate sums of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which sums he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

The accused was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million, to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also forms crime proceeds.

The offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011. (NAN)

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