Alleged $5m Money Laundering: Court Admits Statements Of Late Aide To Obanikoro

 

 

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has admitted in evidence a statement made by the late Justin Erukaa, a Personal Assistant to the former Minister of State for Defence Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun admitted the statement in the trial of the former Governor of Ekiti state, Mr Ayodele Fayose.

Mr Fayose is on trial for allegedly receiving and keeping N1.2billion and $5million allegedly stolen from the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) contrary to the Money Laundering Act.

He had pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on an 11-count charge last October 22.

Sen. Obanikoro is testifying as the fifth prosecution witness in the trial.

At the last adjourned date of Feb 7th, Obanikoro was absent in court but despite his absence, the court listened to arguments on whether a statement made by Justin Erukaa, the late Personal Assistant to the former Minister of State for Defence Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, could be tendered & admitted as evidence especially as he was not a party to the case.

READ ALSO: 2019 Elections: Court Nullifies Omo-Agege, Others’ Candidacy

A defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo (SAN) had argued that the statement was relevant to the case because Erukaa made the statement in the course of the investigation.

Obanikoro had said in his testimony that he sent Erukaa on errands, including to collect over $1million and that he came to meet him in Ekiti.
“In law, a statement made to the EFCC in the course of the investigation is admissible in evidence without the maker being called as a witness or being a party to proceedings.
“It is not the law that a document which is not tendered through the maker is not admissible,” the SAN said, relying on sections 39 and 83 of the Evidence Act.

But, the EFCC Counsel, Rotimi Jacobs opposed the move to tender the statement, arguing that it was not admissible in law. He said the sections relied on by Ojo were not applicable in the circumstances.

“He wants to smuggle the statement in,” Jacobs said. According to Jacobs, certain conditions must be met before a statement made by a dead person could be tendered, including that the person must have appeared in the proceedings.

At a ruling delivered today, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun overruled the EFCC Prosecutor and held that Sections 39 and 49 of the Evidence Act make such a document admissible.
She said the issue was what weight the court would attach to the statement, and this the court would determine at a later date.

After admitting the statement, the case continued with the cross-examination of Obanikoro.

Obanikoro told the court that he supervised the account of the company, Sylvan Mcnamara Ltd’s which housed the money in issue which was received from the office of the National Security Adviser.

The money which he says came in 3 transactions were for the security of Lagos, the elections in Ekiti and the elections in Osun state.

When asked if elections matters were security matters, Obanikoro said, “matters of election can be matters of security”.

The trial was adjourned to continue on Tuesday, March 19.

Court Strikes Out Obanikoro’s Application Against EFCC

Musiliu Obanikoro, EFCC, Ekiti election, ObanikoroA Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has struck out a 100 million Naira suit instituted by Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, and his family against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over allegations of property seizure.

Justice AbdulAziz Anka held that the suit lacked merit.

The Senator, his wife, his two sons, Gbolahan, Babajide and his daughter-in-law, had dragged the EFCC before the judge over allegations bordering on what they considered a breach of their fundamental rights.

Specifically, the plaintiffs had asked Justice Anka to make a declaration that the forceful seizure of their personal effects by the EFCC amounted to a gross violation of their rights.

The judge was equally urged to issue an order, setting aside the forceful detention of their property during a raid on June 14, 2016.

They also made a demand for an “unreserved public apology”, as well as the sum of 100 million Naira as general damages from the anti-graft agency.

The Obanikoros also wanted the court to issue an order restraining the anti-graft agency from arresting, detaining or harassing them or entering their premises again to seize their property.

On their part, the EFCC argued that Senator Obanikoro got suspicious payments from the Office of the National Security Adviser through some companies linked to the family.

The anti-graft agency argued that $1,018,000 was transferred from the office of the NSA to Mob Integrated Services on March 18, 2015.

The family through their counsel, Lawal Pedro (SAN), however told the judge that the said documents and property seized by the EFCC had nothing to do with the office of the NSA.

Justice Anka’s ruling subsequently held that the application of the Obanikoros lacked judicial procedure and was incompetent.

He also noted that the applicants’ houses were searched by the EFCC based on search warrants secured by the anti-graft agency from the Lagos State Magistrates’ Court.

The judge further said he could not declare the recovered items as null and void, so as not to foreclose the possibility of the EFCC tendering them as exhibits in imminent criminal cases against the Obanikoros.

He added that if the claimants decide to make a case of breach of their rights, they could do so during the criminal trial.

Court To Rule Over EFCC, Obanikoro’s Right Violation Case

Court To Rule Over EFCC, Obanikoro's Right Violation CaseA Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos will on March 28, rule on whether the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), violated the fundamental rights of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and other members of his family when it searched and seized some documents  and property from his house.

The family’s lawyer, Lawal Pedro (SAN), said the Obanikoros contended that the EFCC violated its own law, Regulation 13 of the EFCC (Enforcement Regulation) 2010, which provides that it shall apply and obtain a court order to enter and search any premises.

Having failed to follow this procedure and obtain any court order, the Obanikoros contended that the search is unlawful and illegal.

The EFCC has however urged the court to dismiss the suit, insisting that it acted within the law.

In the Fundamental Rights Enforcement application filed on behalf of the Obanikoros by Fati Obanikoro, a daughter in-law to the Senator, the victims claimed that the forceful seizure of their personal effects constitutes a gross violation of their rights to privacy and fundamental right from compulsory possession or acquisition of move-able property.

They therefore asked the court to make an order setting aside the forceful detention of their properties last June 14.

The Obanikoros also sought an order restraining the EFCC from arresting, detaining or harassing them or entering their premises again to seize their properties.

They further demanded an “unreserved public apology”, as well as 100 million Naira as general damages.

The EFCC had claimed that Senator Obanikoro received suspicious payments from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), through companies linked to the family.

Meanwhile, the family said the documents and properties EFCC seized have nothing to do with the ONSA.

EFCC Releases Obanikoro

Musiliu Obanikoro, EFCC, Ekiti election, ObanikoroThe former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, has been released from the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He was released about on Friday evening, after fulfilling his bail condition which include providing two federal directors as sureties and depositing his Nigerian and American passports at the EFCC.

Senator Obanikoro last week paid the sum of 100.4 million naira to the federal government as part payment for the sum of 480 million naira he allegedly collected from the former national Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki.

Obanikoro reported to the EFCC three months after his invitation by the anti-graft agency. He reported at an EFCC facility directly on his arrival from the United States.

He has since been in their custody while his lawyers worked assiduously to secure his release.

Mr Obanikoro has been in the United States since 2015 after the general elections, where he said he was pursuing leadership and language courses at an American university.

The 2015 election saw his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), unseated at the centre.

Group Wants Corrupt Persons Who Return Looted Funds Punished

Former DPO,10-year jail term,Voluntary return of looted funds or option of plea bargain is not deterrent enough for persons indicted to have looted Nigeria’s funds in the war against corruption, a group, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, said on Friday.

Giving instances of persons that they want to face punishments, the group claims that the former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Abdullahi Dikko, had returned one billion Naira to the Federal Government and insisted that voluntary return of loot was not enough.

‘Go And Sin No More’

In a statement, the Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Mr Debo Adeniran, said: “It is very imperative for Nigerians to understand the details of what constitute the ‘plea bargain’ being offered to some suspects of corruption or the ‘go and sin no more’ attitude which is apparently being applied as in Dikko and some other suspected corruption criminals’ cases”.

The group claimed that in recent developments, the former Comptroller-General was reported to have returned one billion Naira to the FG, just as a former Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, has signed an undertaking with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to return 480 million Naira as ‘ill-gotten gains’ under their watch while in office.

Out of the 480 million Naira he has returned 100 million Naira to the Federal Government.

The ex-Custom boss has been under investigation by the EFCC for allegedly diverting about 40 billion Naira during his administration as head of Customs between August 2009 and August 2015, while Obanikoro’s case was about his alleged role in the diversion of 4.7 billion Naira from the imprest account of the Office of the National Security Adviser.

Mr Adeniran expressed dissatisfaction with the developments given the gravity of the crimes in question.

He said: “Our Coalition has always insisted on punishing culprits of corruption to serve as deterrent to other corruption criminals and the potentially corrupt persons in the country.

“The non-application of punitive measures against persons guilty of corruption would make the whole anti-corruption war a huge joke, a waste of time, energy and resources.

“We are aware that part of the conditions for plea bargain, given to accused persons, who are penitent, are forfeiting of properties and pleading guilty. We acknowledge the necessity to differentiate between penitent corruption criminals and recalcitrant ones, but we insist that the return of loots is not far-reaching enough if the war against corruption will achieve enduring success.

“Our position is that, it is correct to treat those who admit their guilt voluntarily and those that make the state to expend resources energy and time before their conviction is achieved differently, we agree to that extent.

“But our position is that those that opt for plea bargain should nonetheless not be allowed to go scot-free; they should hence be stripped of all their properties and monies as well as honours that could have been bestowed on some of them – they should be made to start life anew. All of their material possessions should be deemed as proceeds of corruption and therefore confiscated by the state. Then they can be told to ‘go and sin no more'”.

‘Jail According To Loot Size’

Continuing, he said: “As for the recalcitrant ones of should of course be made to face the full constitutional and judicial consequences of their crimes. They should be put in jail according to size of their loots, even up to life imprisonment”.

The CACOL is also suggesting life imprisonment for convicts that stole any amount above one billion Naira, insisting that they should be made to work diligently for their own upkeep via whatever skills they possess previously or has been able to learn behind the bars.

“They should be used as objects to educate the young, the youth and all when they go on excursion to the prisons, seeing former corrupt leaders in such situation will certainly serve to deter the potentially corrupt,” the group highlighted.

It further advised that whatever assets traced to such convicts should be deemed to be proceeds of corruption and confiscated by the Nigerian state.

Lawyers Working Hard To Secure Obanikoro’s Release, Says Aide

obanikoroFormer Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, may regain freedom soon from the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), his spokesman says.

Mr Jonathan Eze said on Tuesday that Mr Obanikoro’s lawyers were working assiduously to secure his release.

Mr Obanikoro had reported at the anti-graft agency’s office in Lagos on Monday, where he was being interrogated over alleged graft crimes.

His spokesman said in a statement that his principal was well and that the officials of the EFCC were cooperative.

Eze said the agency was conducting its interrogations decently without any form of intimidation and harassment.

He urged the supporters of the embattled former Minister to be patient, noting that the counsels are working tirelessly to secure his release.

The statement reads in parts: “Senator Musiliu Obanikoro is still in the custody of the EFCC, but I can confirm to you that he is strong and well.

“The EFCC officials are doing their job and as at this moment, we don’t have any reason to complain.

“We are optimistic that the operatives will conclude their questioning as soon as possible so that he can go home and rest since he hasn’t rested well, owing to the stress of travelling many hours from the United States.

“We are also confident that the EFCC will not indulge in the luxury of keeping him beyond reasonable time and days, especially as he submitted himself to them without stress”.

Mr Eze added that Senator Obanikoro was not afraid of his stewardship, saying he served Nigeria creditably well and was proud of his contributions so far.

Xenophobic Attacks: Human Right Groups Stage Protest In Benin City

xenophobic AttacksHuman Right Groups have occupied the entrances to telecommunications’ providers offices in Benin City, the Edo State capital, protesting the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The groups are demanding a stop to the killings of Nigerians and other foreigners and the looting of their businesses in the wake of the xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Locals are demanding that foreigners leave the country, claiming that their limited resources must not be shared.

The Human Right Group further appealed to the Nigerian government to commence the evacuation of Nigerians living in South Africa without further delay.

On Saturday, responding to requests for evacuation of Nigerians in South Africa, a Nigerian envoy in South Africa ruled out the possibility of immediate evacuation of citizens from the nation.

The Acting High Commissioner to South Africa, Mr Martin Cobham, said it was a bit too early to consider the option of evacuation of Nigerians.

He said there was the need for calm, despite calls by Nigerian for the evacuation of Nigerians in South Africa.

Meanwhile, The Nigerian students had earlier staged a protest, threatening to embark on reprisal attacks on foreign nationals, including South Africans and their businesses in Nigeria, if the government from both countries do not call those responsible for the killings in South Africa.

The Under Secretary, African Affairs at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Godwin Agama, assured the aggrieved students of the government’s prompt response to the situation, urging them not to take laws into their hands.

South Africa xenophobic attacks
One of the buildings torched by locals in the protest against foreigners in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, on Monday, said he was hopeful that citizens affected by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa will be compensated.

Since the renewed attacks started last week, several Nigerians have lost their businesses and other belongings to fire set by locals on buildings where their businesses were housed.

Senator Obanikoro said that Nigerian High Commissioner, Martin Cobham and other delegations were taking stock of damages done to Nigerians to ensure that adequate compensation would be given to them.

“We have situations where some of our people lost their shops in this attack.

“We are taking stock of the damages done to them and we are going to be engaging the South African Government,” Senator Obanikoro said.

 

Obanikoro Assures Nigerians In South Africa Of Safety

obanikoro-on-xenophobia attackThe Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Musiliu Obanikoro, has assured Nigerians in South Africa that all will be done to restore peace and safety of their lives and property in the country.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja, Obanikoro said there is ongoing cooperation with South African authorities to keep the situation under control.

The Minister, however, addressed the social challenges that are underlying causes to the xenophobic attacks such as poverty and ignorance.

It is sad that Africans can exert such inhumanity against themselves at this time when growth is needed most in the continent, he said.

Obanikoro also commended the group of South Africans that protested against the attacks. He said that more of such interventions are needed to reduce and eventually eliminate such xenophobic tendencies.

On April 13, the Malawian government said it would help repatriate its citizens from South Africa following the outbreak of xenophobic violence in the eastern port city of Durban.

South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba and the Premier of Kwazulu Natal, Senzo Mchunu, have held a town-hall meeting with members of various communities as part of efforts to resolve the crisis.

A high crime rate and a lack of jobs, among other things, have been blamed on foreigners by some indigenes. A recent statement by the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelinthini, on too many foreigners in the country has not helped. The king has since said he was quoted out of context.

Senate’s Spokesman Says Obanikoro Is “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

Enyinnaya AbaribeThe spokesman for the Senate in Nigeria on Wednesday said that the confirmation of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro was in line with the provisions of the law and the responsibility of the Senate.

After a push by members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Senate to stop the confirmation of the Minister failed, the APC Senators walked out and held a press conference, telling reporters that the decision of the Senate to confirm the former Minister of Defence was a disappointment.

They alleged that the Minister had a case to answer, citing allegations against him and his involvement in the alleged rigging of the Ekiti State governorship election.

Senator Obanikoro has denied the allegation.

The Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, who is a member of the APC, said that the opposition party had objected the nomination of Senator Obanikoro, but lamented that the Senate President and other members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate took advantage of their numbers to override the process.

But the spokesman for the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said although there were allegations against Senator Obanikoro, there was no court decision, condemning Senator Obanikoro for any crime.

“Well, what we know as a matter of fact is that there were allegations against Senator Musiliu Obanikoro

“But in our law and the Constitution of Nigeria, anything that is a mere allegation, that is not in any way a court decision, is nothing but a mere allegation and every citizen of Nigeria is deem to be innocent until proven guilty.

And even the Senators, who addressed the press conference and spoke about the qualification and non-qualification of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro are enjoying this privilege because some of them have EFCC cases and they are still in the Senate because of this privilege of being innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

Senator Abaribe said that the APC Senator’s statement was an attempt to convict somebody when the person had not been convicted in a court of law.

“They cannot enjoy that privilege themselves and sit in this senate and then turn around and say that somebody else cannot enjoy that privilege.

“And the laws of Nigeria is very clear. You are innocent until you are proven guilty and that is what played out on the floors of the Senate.

The senate in its wisdom, having known that this is the law of Nigeria and this is the Constitution of Nigeria, and that every Nigerian is entitled to this privilege, went ahead to do what it is supposed by law to do which is confirmation of somebody that is on the floor of the Senate who has not been convicted of anything,” he stressed.

APC Senators Condemn Obanikoro’s Confirmation

obanikoroSenators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria have condemned the confirmation of a ministerial nominee, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, by majority in the Senate, saying they were extremely disappointed by the decision.

Senator Obanikoro was confirmed, without much questioning, by majority in the Senate on Wednesday during the plenary.

The APC lawmakers walked out of the floor of the Senate after their bid to stop the confirmation failed.

Number Advantage

Briefing reporters after Senator Obanikoro was confirmed, the Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, who is a member of the APC, said that the opposition party had objected the nomination of Senator Obanikoro, but lamented that the Senate President and other members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate took advantage of their numbers to override the process.

“We objected to the nomination of Senator Obanikoro and yet the Senate President and his colleagues from the PDP decided to take advantage of their numbers to override what was supposed to be basically a very straight forward issue. We wonder whether we want to grow democracy in this country or we want to destroy this democracy.

“I have said his (Senate President) action is a breach. He should have stayed to clear himself. The matter is in court and one of the rules of the Senate is that when a matter is in the court, the Senate cannot deliberate on it,” he said.

“Compromised His Office”

Senator Obanikoro was a former Minister of Defence before he resigned to vie for the governorship candidacy of the PDP in Lagos State. He lost in the primary election.

He is alleged to have planned out a process to rig the Ekiti State governorship election. Senator Obanikoro has denied the allegation.

But the APC Senators still said he had questions to answer in respect to what transpired in the Ekiti State election.

Another Senator and a member of the APC, Chris Ngige, expressed worries over the rush to bring back Senator Obanikoro, who he alleged had compromised his office as a Minister of Defence.

“One wonders what is the rush in trying to bring back a former minister of defence who has been alleged… and clips shown that he compromised his office.

“You oppose card reader, Permanent Voter Cards and everything that will make for a credible election and you want to bring back someone who is alleged to have been tented by all evidence,” he stated.

“Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

Responding to the grouse of the APC Senators, the spokesman for the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said although there were allegations against Senator Obanikoro, there was no court decision, condemning Senator Obanikoro for any crime.

“Well, what we know as a matter of fact is that there were allegations against Senator Musiliu Obanikoro

“But in our law and the Constitution of Nigeria, anything that is a mere allegation, that is not in any way a court decision, is nothing but a mere allegation and every citizen of Nigeria is deem to be innocent until proven guilty.

“And even the Senators, who addressed the press conference and spoke about the qualification and non-qualification of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro are enjoying this privilege because some of them have EFCC cases and they are still in the Senate because of this privilege of being innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

Senator Abaribe said that the APC Senator’s statement was an attempt to convict somebody when the person had not been convicted in a court of law.

“They cannot enjoy that privilege themselves and sit in this Senate and then turn around and say that somebody else cannot enjoy that privilege.

“And the laws of Nigeria is very clear. You are innocent until you are proven guilty and that is what played out on the floors of the Senate.

“The senate in its wisdom, having known that this is the law of Nigeria and this is the Constitution of Nigeria, and that every Nigerian is entitled to this privilege, went ahead to do what it is supposed by law to do which is confirmation of somebody that is on the floor of the Senate who has not been convicted of anything,” he stressed.

 


 

 

Nigerian Navy 58th Anniversary: Stakeholders Seek To Combat Crude Oil Theft

Navy Anniversary 58Increased budgetary allocation to the Nigerian Navy and other maritime security agencies can ensure effective combat of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the country’s waterways.

The Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, stated this at an interactive session held in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.

Stakeholders gathered for a 2-day conference organized by the Nigerian Navy, as part of activities marking its 58th anniversary, hopeful that remedies to the heightened activities of pirates, who are bent on milking the nation dry through pipeline vandalism, oil theft and other related offenses, are found.

Mr Obanikoro noted that the country’s development was closely linked to a safe waterway.

“In the long term, if Nigeria is to meet the target of our administration and our transformation agenda, which is to be among the top 20 economies, then the role of security, especially in the maritime domain becomes more and more imperative”, he said.

In 2013, losses from crude oil theft were estimated at an average of 55,210 barrels daily, which translates to over 1.6million barrels monthly.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Usman Jibrin, said that the decision to hold a conference as part of the 2014 Navy Week celebration was part of the overall strategy to continuously examine and reappraise the procedures within the Navy, in order to ensure that it remains focused.

The theme of the conference was derived from that mission; which is ‘Combating Crude Oil theft In Nigeria’s Maritime Domain’, an element for improved national and individual earnings.

The host governor, Liyel Imoke, also advocated the strengthening of existing laws against crude oil theft, as he emphasized the need for the Nigerian Navy to have the capacity to prosecute those it arrests.

It was also resolved that if all those found culpable of crude oil theft and related offences are made to forfeit personal assets and all bank accounts traceable to them, it would deter others from taking to such crimes.

 

President Jonathan Swears In New Ministers

President-Goodluck-Jonathan-1The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has sworn in 11 new ministers recently screened by the Senate, urging them to bring in positive changes in the administration and work closely with others in the service of their fatherland.

In the list of the new ministers are, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who is the Minister of State for Defence, Mohammed Wakil, Minister of State for Power, Abduljelili Adesiyan, Minister of Police Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Akon Eyakenyi, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Lawrencia Laraba Mala, Minister of Environment.

Others are, Dr Tamuno Danagogo, Minister of Sports, Asabe Ahmed, Minister of State for Agriculture, General Aliyu  Gusau, Minister of Defence, Mr Boni Haruna, Minister of Youth Development and Dr Khaliru Alhassan Minister of State for Health.

The new ministers filed out in batches of four to take the oath, while the president observed. One after the other they also signed the dotted lines.

Dr Danagogo replaced the former Minister of Sports, Mr Bolaji Abdullahi, who has travelled to Poland to attend the International Weightlifting Federation Championship.

Bring In Positive Changes

President Jonathan said that another set of ministers would be sworn in before he would have a full discussion with the ministers.

He said: “Join us to see how we can serve our people. Public office is for service. See yourselves as servants and bring value to what you have been asked to do.

“I always tell my people to find out and detect errors and do adjustments that will bring positive changes. Work closely with others and relate with each other for the success of the administration”.

The President also advised the new ministers to ensure that they do not create problems, saying that the administration will review the schedule of duties to avoid friction among the ministers and minister of state.

He stressed that their responsibilities were mainly administrative and expressed hopes that they would bring their experiences to bear.