How Emefiele released $6.2m for foreign election observers – CBN Director narrates in court

The fraud trial of the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, resumed on Monday before the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, with a deputy director at the apex bank, Onyeka Ogbu, testifying against him.

Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Emefiele on amended 20 counts bordering on forgery, criminal conspiracy, conferring undue advantage, and breach of trust, among others.

Specifically, the EFCC accused Emefiele of impersonating the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to illegally obtain a sum of $6.2m.

The EFCC alleged that on February 8, 2023, Emefiele connived with one Odoh Ocheme, who is now on the run, to obtain $6.2m from the CBN, claiming that it was requested by the SGF “vide a letter dated 26th January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.”

According to the EFCC, Emefiele allegedly claimed that the SGF requested the CBN to release “a contingent logistic advance in the sum of $6,230,000.00 in line with Mr. President’s directive.”

Furthermore, the anti-graft agency alleged that Emefiele, in January 2023, forged a document titled: “RE: PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE ON FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVER MISSIONS,” dated 26 January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.

He said to have allegedly connived with the fleeing Ocheme to commit the “illegal act to wit: forgery.”

At the resumed trial on Monday, Ogbu, who is the Deputy Director in charge of Branch Operations at the CBN, told the court that he was aware of a $6.2m payment request for international election observers.

Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Ogbu said he recalled that the $6.2m payment request was made on January 8, 2023.

He told the court that he reviewed the payment request and gave approval for disbursement.

Ogbu said, “On January 8, 2023, a request for payment of $6, 230, 000 was brought to my attention by the Banking Services Department.

“Ours is to make payment; we don’t have the power to approve. Having gone through the documents and satisfied, I minuted on them and sent for processing and disbursement, which was complied with.

“When I received the document, I found that it was from the Banking Services Department. The Director, Banking Services signed the memo, and the content of the memo contained an instruction for the Branch Controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, with the identity and the name of the person mentioned.

“The memo said the payment was for international election observers and that we should debit an account – Naira Forex Account – with the naira equivalent of $6,230,000.

“The memo also said that the money will be refunded in the second quarter of 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Finance.”

He noted that the payment was eventually made on September 8, 2023.

The prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, was in the process of tendering the documents when he noticed that some of them were not properly certified.

He prayed the court to be allowed to tender them as they were, with a promise to replace them later with properly certified copies, a request the defence lawyer, Matthew Burkaa (SAN), rejected.

Oyedepo then urged the court to grant him a brief stand-down of about 30 minutes to get the documents certified, which Burkaa also rejected.

Burkaa argued that the prosecution could not have the documents certified within the 30 minutes suggested.

He urged the court to, instead, grant an adjournment to allow the prosecution sufficient time to put its house in order.

After listening to their submissions, Justice Hamza Muazu adjourned till (today) Tuesday for the continuation of trial.

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