Alleged N4.6bn Money Laundering: EFCC Witness Testifies Against Fani-Kayode, Others

Alleged N4.9bn Money Laundering: Trial Of Fani-Kayode, Others Stalled
A file photo of Mr Femi Fani-Kayode

 

 

A prosecution witness, Mr Shehu Shuaibu, has told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the sum of N800 million was paid from the Ministry of External Affairs into the account of a company, Jointrust Dimension Ltd.

The witness, an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), gave the testimony on Tuesday at the resumed trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, and others facing N4.6 billion money laundering charge.

Also charged are a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenandi Usman, and a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Yusuf Danjuma.

Jointrust Dimension Ltd is the fourth defendant.

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EFCC preferred a 17-count of money laundering against the defendants but all pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.

The anti-graft agency has since opened its case and the third prosecution witness, Shuaibu, was examined in chief.

The prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, continued the examination of the witness after the court had earlier rejected an objection to the admissibility of two documents tendered by the witness.

At the last adjourned date, the defence had objected to the admissibility of bank documents tendered through the witness on the ground that they were not legible and also not public documents.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa, however, rejected the objection on the ground that even if the witness was not the maker of the said document, they were gotten in the course of his investigation and therefore, admissible.

The court accordingly admitted and marked the documents as exhibits 15 and 16 respectively.

In continuation of his evidence, Oyedepo asked the witness to tell the court his findings during investigations.

The witness who first confirmed that exhibit E8 was the statement of account of Jointrust Dimension Ltd, told the court that investigations revealed that on January 16, 2015, the sum of N800million was paid into the account of the company.

He added that the money came from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with the signatories to the account identified as two persons – Darbisu and Benjamin.

Shuaibu noted that the said signatories were former staff members of the MEA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, respectively, now working with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

He told the court that on January 13, 2015, the sum of N400 million was paid from the MEA into the same account of Jointrust.

The witness explained that these monies were paid, whereas investigations revealed that there were no contracts between the ministry and the company to warrant such payment.

Under cross-examination, the defence counsel, Mr Ferdinard Orbih, asked the witness who was the author of the entries in Exhibit Eight and the witness replied that it was the MEA.

Orbih asked: “So you agree that neither of the defendants had any input in making the entries in Exhibit Eight” and the witness replied, “No, they don’t.”

When further quizzed to confirm if there exists in the said exhibit, words like the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the witness said no but explained that the words were abbreviated to read MEA and MFA.

The witness also told the court that he had no knowledge if any of the defendants were employees of any investigation agency of the government.

Mr Orbih also asked the witness if the commission obtained statements from the signatories to Exhibit 16 and the witness’ response was, “Yes, they were invited to our office and their statements taken.”

On whether the said statements were frontloaded or made available to the defence, the witness replied, “I don’t know.”

The defence counsel then said, “I put it to you that the purported statements were not frontloaded to the defendants and not before this court?”

“I don’t know, I am not a lawyer and I am not the one that drafted the charges,” the witness responded.

After listening to the testimony and comments from both counsels, the judge adjourned until Thursday for the continuation of the trial.

In the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.

In counts one to seven, they were said to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful acts of stealing and corruption.

In counts eight to 14, they were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.

Similarly, in counts 15 to17, Mr Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke said to be at large were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.

Besides, the former minister was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.

All offences, according to EFCC, contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

President Buhari States Readiness To Support LG Autonomy

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians, LG AutonomyPresident Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will support a constitutional amendment to free local governments from the stranglehold of states and better the lot of Nigerians at the community level.

The President was speaking when he received the leadership of the Association of Local Governments in Nigeria (ALGON) in Abuja.

He said that a constitutional amendment was urgently required to clearly define the relationship among the three tiers of government.

He described the frosty relationship between states and local government as “a very serious constitutional problem”.

He said: “The relationship between the three tiers of government is not a very nice one, especially that between the local governments and the states.

“The states feel like they own the local government, if they are of the same party.  It is worse if they are not.

“This is a very serious constitutional problem and unless there is absolute clarity and transparency, the relationship will continue to be exploited against the interest of the ordinary people of the country.”

President Buhari advised the ALGON executives to hold consultations with their people and lawyers with a view to presenting a bill that will seek a constitutional amendment to free the councils from the stranglehold of the states.

Court Orders CBN, FG To Pay ALGON 960bn Naira

CBN, ALGON, FG, garnishee order absoluteA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has granted a ‘garnishee order absolute’ for 960 billion Naira against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government.

The presiding judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, gave the ruling on Tuesday in favour of the incorporated trustees of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).

He ordered the CBN to debit the Federal Government’s account from funds already set aside by the apex bank, pursuant to an earlier ‘garnishee order nisi’ on April 1, 2015.

Reacting to the judgment, the Director-General of ALGON, Mr Ted Iseghohi-Edward, said that all 774 members of the association, together with the state governments and the Presidency would meet to decide how the said funds would be disbursed to the local governments across the country.

The incorporated trustee of ALGON had in 2013, dragged the Federal Government to court over alleged illegal deductions made by the government from the local government share of the Federation Account.

The association alleged that the deductions were made to liquidate the London Club debts which the government had borrowed from June 1995 to March 2002.

ALGON Rejects Nullification Of Rivers LG Election

RiversThe Rivers State Chapter of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria have kicked against the judgement of the Federal High Court, nullifying the May 23 local government elections held in the state.

Addressing the media in Abuja, the Chairman of the body, Mr Sogbeye Eli argued that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) never sought the nullification of the election, which effectively sacked the 23 local government chairmen and their councillors.

Mr Eli said that the association stands by an earlier interim order by the National Industrial Court, restraining the state government from interfering in the activities of the chairmen.

The association has appealed the judgement, while asking for a stay of execution.

A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had dissolved the 22 Local Government Councils in Rivers State, Nigeria’s south-south region.

The presiding judge, Justice Lambo Akanbi of the Federal High Court 1, gave the verdict in his ruling on Thursday.

The judge said that the decision of the administration of former Governor Chibuike Amaechi to go ahead with the conduct of the council election on May 23, in spite of a court order asking all parties to maintain status quo, was a flagrant abuse of court process and disregard for rule of law.

Oshiomhole Asks Council Chairmen To Collate FG Projects

Edo state Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, on Wednesday termed as “scandalous and unconstitutional” the Federal Government’s decision to award contracts on behalf of local Government and deduct the funds from the Federation Account.

Oshiomhole, who said this today when he received the new executive of the Edo State arm of ALGON at the Government House in Benin City, urged the council chairmen to compile a list of the projects in Edo State so as to verify their existence.

The Governor also said that the state Government has filed a suit against the deduction of ALGON dues from the Federation account on behalf of the Local Government Chairmen stating that it should be a voluntary action of the a local Government chairmen.

Oshiomhole said the award of contracts by the federal a government on behalf of the local Government is unconstitutional as it negates the principles of the Separation of Powers.

He also said the state has gone to court to challenge the deduction by ALGON on behalf of the Local Government Chairmen.

The Governor also denied allegations that he bought vehicles on behalf of local Government Chairmen adding that he will not spend local Government funds and will not authorized anyone to do so on his behalf.

The Governor however urged the Chairmen to spread their developmental projects to every ward in their various local Government areas irrespective of whether they voted for them or not.

Reps threaten to withhold fund from undemocratic Local council administrators

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal on Wednesday cautioned the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and other state governors on their handling of the country’s local government system.

The speaker warned that the National Assembly will move to discourage illegal local government councils by stopping their funding.

Mr Tambuwal sounded this warning against the background of the recent incidence in Imo State.

The Imo State governor had in August sacked the 27 reinstated Local government chairmen from office summarily dissolving the third-tier administration in Imo State and replacing the chairmen with Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS).

The Speaker while in a meeting with the leaders and members of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALCON) at the National Assembly complex in Abuja, said most of the states in the country have been paying lip service to the section of the constitution that guarantee the autonomy of the Local government council.

“What we are thinking of doing in the House of Representatives and I’m sure, by and large the National Assembly is to tie that particular provision with the release of funds to undemocratically installed caretaker committee,” the speaker said.

“I will use this medium to call on the governor of Imo State to please respect the rule of law. If it is about might and power, I’m sure he is not the strongest personality, in terms of physique, that is in Imo state. But God in His infinite wisdom has made him to be the governor of Imo State, through an electoral process put in place by law. He should therefore also respect the law and do the right thing.

“What is happening there in Imo State is actually unacceptable and please; I am pleading; I am joining other Nigerians to plead with him to respect the laws of the land and do the right thing,” Mr Tambuwal said.

The National President of ALGON, Nwabueze Okafor, had appealed to the lawmakers to save the local government so that it can work for the country.

“The time has come for us to decide whether we want the Local government system to operate or whether we want to remove it entirely,” he said.

Mr Okafor said the ready vehicle through which the government can convey the dividend of democracy to all Nigerians is the local government councils. He therefore pleaded with the National Assembly to intervene in saving the councils from the powers of the state governors.