A former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, on Monday told a Federal High Court that money was given to former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State from the imprest account of a former National Security Adviser in June 2014.
Obanikoro gave evidence in the trial of Fayose before Justice Mojisola Olaterogun in Lagos, where Fayose is facing charges of N6.9bn fraud.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on October 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd. He faces 11 counts.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was granted bail in the sum of N50m, with one surety in like sum.
The substantive trial began on November 19, 2018, with the EFCC calling four witnesses.
On Monday, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) appeared for the EFCC, while Messrs Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) represented the first and second accused respectively.
Jacobs then called on Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness, to give evidence. The counsel led the former minister in evidence.
Jacobs asked him where he was in 2014 and he told the court that he was the Minister of State for Defence. The counsel then asked him to tell the court what he knew about the case.
The witness testified that in June 2014, when Ekiti State governorship election was near, he received a call from the accused (Fayose), enquiring from him (Obanikoro) if there was any “message” for him from the then National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The witness said that he told Fayose that there was none but promised to check with the NSA and give Fayose feedback.
He told the court that eventually, the NSA confirmed to him that he had a “message” for the accused and that the funds would be made available.
The prosecutor then showed the witness exhibit E to confirm if it was the account to which the funds were transferred, and the witness replied: “Yes.”
The witness told the court that on June 13, 2014, and also on June 16, 2014, funds were posted into the account, adding that the funds were from the imprest account of the NSA.
He said that he asked the accused how he wanted the money, and he told him that some amounts should be paid in Naira and others in dollars.
According to him, the money was eventually brought in a bullion van to the private wing of the Ikeja Airport, where one Agbele, sent by the accused, was on standby. He testified that after confirmation from the accused, the money was taken to Ekiti State.
The witness told the court that afterwards, he went to Ado-Ekiti to meet the accused in his hotel, known as Spotless, and gave him the dollar component which was $5m.
The prosecution counsel asked Obanikoro how many days it was to the Ekiti governorship election when he gave Fayose the money. “About three days to the election,” the witness replied.
The prosecution also asked the former minister the source of the money. “The NSA is the only person that can ascertain the source of the money; it was from the imprest account of the NSA,” he said.
The counsel asked how the money was debited and the witness told the court that he gave instructions to the managing director of Diamond Bank, but was not available when the deductions were made.
When asked his connection with the accounts, Obanikoro said that it was used for security purposes, adding that he would not want to divulge further information on that.
After the evidence, the defence sought an adjournment to enable it to cross-examine the witness. After several objections and counter objections, the judge granted an adjournment until February 4 for cross-examination of Obanikoro.
The EFCC said that, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and Agbele took possession of N1.2bn for funding his governorship election campaign.
The Commission said that the accused reasonably ought to have known that the sum formed part of crime proceeds. It alleged that Fayose received a cash payment of $5m (about N1.8bn) from Obanikoro without going through any financial institution, noting that the sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.
It also accused Fayose of retaining N300m in his Zenith Bank account and taking control of the aggregate sums of about N622m which sums, it said, formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was also alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd. and Still Earth Ltd., to retain in their Zenith and FCMB accounts the aggregate sums of N851m which formed part of crime proceeds.
He was also accused of illegally using the aggregate sums of about N1.6bn to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja.
The accused was also alleged to have illegally used N200m to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the alleged offences contravene Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011.