The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) opened its case in the trial of former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, on charges of procurement fraud at the FCT High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday.
The EFCC charged Mr Emefiele with six counts of alleged breach of procurement procedure in the award of the contract to April 1616 Investment Limited.
The anti-graft agency had earlier in August filed 20 counts of procurement fraud against Mr Emefiele alongside an employee of the CBN, Sa’adatu Yaro, and her company, April 1616 Investment Limited. The charges involve corrupt purchase of some vehicles for the CBN.
But the charges were subsequently amended to make Mr Emefiele the sole defendant. It was pruned down from the original 20 counts to six counts, which now involve alleged fraudulent N1.6 billion worth of contracts.
Mr Emefiele pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Trial begins, first witness testifies
At the resumed trial on Tuesday, the EFCC called its first witness (PW 1), Shamsudeen Abulili, to open its case.
The witness, an officer of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) gave evidence on how the company April 1616 Investment Limited was incorporated on 1 August 2016 with RC : 1350837 and tendered several documents on how the company was floated.
He read out the names of the shareholders of the company which comprised Aminu Idris Yaro, with 500,000 shares, Maryam Aliyu Abdullahi, 350,000 shares and Saadatu Yaro with 150,000 shares.
He said the company has 1 million shares at N1 each.
Led in evidence by EFCC prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the witness said that Mr Emefiele’s name was not in any way connected with the company.
The witness explained that although CAC was responsible for incorporation of the company, it has no roles in the day-to-day running of the affairs of the entity.
The second witness, Remigious Ugwu, a Compliance Officer with Zenith Bank, told the court how various sums of money in millions of naira were paid by the CBN into the April 1616 Investment Limited’s Zenith Bank account.
Specifically, he told the court how CBN paid N39,060,465 to the company on 19 October 2020; a sum of N421,953,488 paid to the company on 6 November 2020, and the N304,883,720 was paid on 23 November 2020.
Similarly, he said that N304,883,720 was paid to company on 1 January 2021 and another N304,883,720 paid the same company on March 23, 2021 by the CBN.
He admitted that none of the payments was linked to Mr Emefiele’s name. He also said he did not know the purpose of the payments.
The witness, who tendered various documents on behalf of the prosecution, said that the former CBN governor was not a signatory to the bank account of the company.
The third witness, Oluwole Owoeye, a Deputy Director, Banking Services with CBN and former Secretary to Major Contract Tendering Committee MCTC of the CBN, said his body was responsible for ensuring CNN’s compliance with Procurement Act in the award of contracts.
When cross-examined by Mr Emefiele ‘s counsel, Matthew Burkaa, a SAN, Mr Owoeye informed the court that his committee was not involved in the vetting of bidding for the award of contracts that led to prosecution of Mr Emefiele.
The witness explained that another committee handled the bidding because it was above the thresholds of his own committee
”My Lord, all I know, through our records, is that contracts for award of vehicle supplies were awarded to April 1616 but I cannot say whether the contracts were executed or paid for because my committee played no roles.”
He admitted that MCTC and Procurement Department were fully functional while Mr Emefiele held sway as CBN governor.
After listening to these testimonies, Justice Hamza Muazu adjourned until 18 January and 19 January 2024.
The former CBN governor was accused of conferring corrupt advantages on a staff member of CBN, Mrs Yaro through awards of vehicle supply contracts worth over N1.2 billion in violation of section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.Donate
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999