The inability of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to ferry complete exhibits to the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court on Monday stalled the trial of the former governor of the bank, Godwin Emefiele, over alleged $6 million procurement fraud.
The exhibits were to be tendered against Emefiele by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to establish the corruption charges brought against him by the Federal Government.
However, midway into Monday’s proceedings, it was discovered that the documents brought to court by CBN were incomplete.
The documents were in relation to the disbursement of $6,230,000, said to be for international election observers, and falsely obtained by Emefiele.
At the resumed trial, lead counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, had called the first prosecution witness, (PW 1) Onyeka Ogbu, a Deputy Director in CBN Branch Operations.
The witness told the court how, on January 8, 2023, a request for payment of $6,230,000 was brought to his attention by the Banking Services Department.
He explained that the duty of his department is to make payment, but does not have power to approve.
The witness said that having gone through the documents and being satisfied, he minuted on it, sent it for processing and disbursement which was complied with.
The documents relating to request for the money were all identified but two were found missing leading to the prosecution counsel asking for a stand down to enable him get the missing pages.
However, lead counsel to Emefiele, Mr Mathew Burkaa, SAN, opposed the request for stand down of the trial and opted for an adjournment.
He said adjournment was better to allow EFCC get all the certified true copies and also for the witness to be cross examined.
After listening to their submissions, Justice Muazu adjourned until February 13 for continuation of trial.
It will be recalled that EFCC arraigned Emefiele in court on amended 20- count charges bordering on criminal conspiracy, conferring undue advantage, and breach of trust, among others.
The former CBN governor however pleaded not guilty to the charges when it was read to him.
Following his plea and the request of his counsel for him to remain on his existing bail condition, Justice Hamza Muazu granted the request
In some of the amended charges EFCC 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.
The EFCC said Emefiele made the claim despite knowing that it was false “and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act”.
According to the amended charge marked CR/577/2023, Emefiele, on February 8, 2023, connived with one Odoh Ocheme, who is now on the run, to obtain $6.2 million 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″.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the contract for the renovation of the CBN Governor’s Lodge, located at No. 2 Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, was awarded to a company named Messrs. Architekon Nigeria Limited, “wherein the duo are directors and majority shareholders”.
The offences according to EFCC contravened sections 17, 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000, as well as sections 315, 363 and 364 of the Penal Code.
The anti-graft agency had in August, first charged Emefiele and one Mrs Sa’adatu Yaro and a company, April 1616 Investment Limited, purported to belong to Mrs Yaro, over alleged breach of the Procurement Act in respect of the purchase of some vehicles.