The trial of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, and two others continued on Friday before the Federal High Court in Lagos, with the testimony of an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, who investigated the case.
The investigator, Usman Zakari, who appeared as the second prosecution witness in the case, narrated to the court how Akinjide and others allegedly took delivery of a cash sum of N650m in March 2015.
According to him, Akinjide and two others collected the N650m cash at the Dugbe branch of Fidelity Bank in Ibadan on the standing instruction of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Zakari said his investigation revealed that the N650m was part of a total sum of N23bn which Diezani warehoused in the bank.
He said he found that the N23bn was the naira equivalent of a total of $115.01m, which Diezani allegedly collected from three oil marketers and one Lano Adesanya in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
Zakari, who was led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, said his investigation followed “a top classified Category A intelligence” about a meeting convened by Diezani in her house in December 2014.
According to him, the meeting was attended by Diezani, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, and some oil marketers.
Zakari said at the meeting, the former petroleum minister informed Okonkwo that the oil marketers would bring different dollar sums to him, which she instructed the bank chief to help her keep in the bank’s vault until further instructions.
The investigator said pursuant to the meeting, one Auctus Integrated Limited took $17.8m to the bank; another company, Northern Belt Oil and Gas, took $60m to the bank; while one Mid-Western Oil Services Limited also paid $9.5m.
“An individual, Lano Adesanya, brought the sum of $1.8m; our findings further revealed that the three oil marketers made payment of the sum of $89m and some fractions. Investigations further revealed that the then petroleum minister’s aides made available $25m and some fractions in suitcases, which were warehoused in Fidelity Bank’s cash vault,” the investigator narrated.
He added, “Upon the receipt of the money by Fidelity Bank, the then petroleum minister instructed Fidelity Bank to convert the said amount into naira, precisely on March 26, 2015.
“Fidelity Bank complied with the instruction; the said amount was converted into naira to the tune of N23bn and some fractions.
“After the conversion, the then petroleum minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, instructed Fidelity Bank to pay the 1st defendant (Akinjide) and the 2nd defendant (Senator Ayo Adeseun) and one Mr. Yinka Taiwo the sum of N650m, through her son, Ogbonna Madueke.
“The 1st defendant and the 2nd defendant and Mr. Yinka Taiwo then proceeded to Fidelity Bank, Dugbe branch in Ibadan, Oyo State and signed a receipt of payment individually for the collection of N650m.
“They signed for the money and took it to the residence of the 1st defendant (Akinjide).
“The defendants made a cash payment of N650m without going through any financial institution, an amount which was more than the amount authorised by law to be paid in cash.”
He told the court that upon being interrogated, Akinjide and Adeseun “admitted making cash payments in that amount.”
But the defence counsel, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Michael Lana and Akinola Oladeji, urged the court to expunge Zakari’s entire evidence for being hearsay.
They contended that the investigator could not give evidence about the meeting in Diezani’s residence and the payments of money, which he did not personally witness.
“I’m placing reliance on Section 38 of the Evidence Act, which says that hearsay evidence is not admissible,” Oladeji argued.
He added that the persons competent to testify about the meeting were Diezani, Fidelity Bank’s MD and the oil marketers who were present.
He said since it was not established that the people who attended the meeting were dead, Zakari could not testify about the meeting.
The same line of argument was pursued by Ayorinde and Lana.
But the prosecutor, Oyedepo, maintained that Zakari’s evidence was not hearsay but his personal findings in the course of his investigation.
“The evidence given by PW2 of his investigative findings cannot be hearsay.
“In view of the fact that the evidence that PW2 gave was the discovery he made in the course of his investigation, the law is settled that such evidence cannot amount to hearsay,” Oyedepo contended, urging the judge to dismiss the objection.
Justice Muslim Hassan adjourned till March 23, 2018, for further proceedings.
Akinjide and her co-defendants are facing 24 charges bordering on conspiracy and money laundering.
They were arraigned on January 16, 2018, by the EFCC which accused them of collecting N650m from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
The EFCC claimed that they ought to have “reasonably known that the money formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act,” adding that they handled it without going through a financial institution in violation of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act – but they all pleaded not guilty.
A move to explore a plea bargain agreement with the EFCC fell through earlier.
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