A former Minister of State for defence Senator Musiliu Obanikoro on Tuesday told the Federal High Court in Lagos that the N4.6billion sent to him from the Office of the National Security (ONSA) in 2014 was not illicit fund.
He said he was worried the huge sums he received from former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) “for security purposes” were described as illicit.
Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness, spoke at the continuation of his cross-examination in the trial of former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose for money laundering.
He said: “The NSA has the responsibility for coordination of security in the country.
“He coordinates all the security agencies. Some of their operations are clandestine and are usually not documented.
“It borders me as a person that clandestine operations of the NSA are described as illicit. It should worry every Nigerian. I am surprised that the current NSA can characterise the funds as illicit.
“The local Joint Task Force on Boko Haram is still being funded by the NSA and the operation started under our watch,” Obanikoro, who served under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, said.
The former minister was cross-examined by Mr Olalekan Ojo (SAN), counsel for Fayose’s company and co-accused, Spotless Limited.
The lawyer said: “I suggest to you that the funds from ONSA were not illicitly obtained.”
Obanikoro responded: “To the best of my knowledge.”
The former minister said he had been reporting at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) once a month since 2016.
Asked why there was a two-year gap between two of his statements tendered in court, Obanikoro said: “They gave me administrative bail. One of the conditions is to report at the office once a month.
“It was during one of such visitations on October 8 last year that I made the last statement after I made the one of October 19, 2016.
“EFCC is investigating me based on a petition by the NSA that N4.6billion was sent to an account operated by me without proper documentation.
“I’ve been reporting at EFCC monthly since 2016 and I have not been discharged from the administrative bail.
“It is correct that I am being investigated for having been privy to illicit transfer of funds. The allegation has not been withdrawn.”
Obanikoro said there was no contract between NSA and Taiwo Kareem who he said owned Sylvan Mcnamara Limited through which NSA transferred the funds.
The former minister said he dealt with Diamond Bank, where the firm’s account was domiciled, on NSA’s behalf.
“I gave instructions to Alex Otti (former Diamond Bank Managing Director) for the payment of N1.2billion.
“The NSA never interacted with the bank. I gave verbal instructions to Diamond Bank.
“I didn’t reduce it to writing because of the nature of the transactions. There was no written instruction for the release of N1.2billion.”
Obanikoro said there was no written resolution by the board of Sylvan Mcnamara that he should operate the account.
“The moment Sylvan Mcnamara decided to work with NSA for security purposes, it was agreed that I would supervise the account because of government funds in it. A verbal agreement was reached to that effect.
“No, Fayose does not have any relationship with Sylvan Mcnamara,” he said in response to a question.
Ojo then asked Obanikoro: “Are you aware that two of your children – Gbolahan Obanikoro and Babajide Obanikoro – were signatories to Sylvan Mcnamara’s account?”
Obanikoro said: “Yes, they were signatories to the account prior to the operation in 2014. My children have relationships with the company. I also have a relationship with the company.”
Ojo asked: “You had known Sylvan Mcnamara long before you recommended it to NSA?”
Obanikoro replied: “Of course.”
Ojo asked: “You recommended Sylvan Mcnamara because of your interest in the company?”
Obanikoro replied: “That’s preposterous. I was in charge of security when I was Commissioner for Home Affairs in Lagos. I knew the owner of the company then as a skillful security operative.
“When the opportunity came, I didn’t hesitate to recommend him to the NSA. The company account went through three phases of ownership.”
Asked why there were no documentations for most of the transactions on the account, he said: “As a corporate citizen, the bank had a responsibility to support the activities of security operations by government institutions.
“If you work in security operations, you will see worst things. And it’s all over the world, not only in Nigeria.”
The former minister admitted that one of the directors of Sylvan Mcnamara, Ikenna Ezekwe, lived with him in his Parkview Estate, Ikoyi home for several years before he left.
On how much was paid to the account in total, the witness said: “About 4.7billion was paid to Sylvan Mcnamara’s account from ONSA.”
Fayose is on trial for allegedly receiving and keeping N1.2billion and $5million allegedly stolen from ONSA contrary to the Money Laundering Act.
He had pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on an 11-count charge last October 22.
EFCC said Fayose and Biodun Agbele, who is facing a different charge, allegedly took possession of N1,219,000, 000 on June 17, 2014 to fund the former governor’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
The commission said Fayose “reasonably ought to have known” that the money “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing.”
EFCC said Fayose, on the same day, received cash payment of $5million from Obanikoro, without going through a financial institution, the sum having exceeded the amount authorised by law.
EFCC listed Obanikoro as one of 22 witnesses that will testify in the trial, which continues today.
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