Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha said on Monday that ex-President Muhammadu Buhari’s signature was forged by those who withdrew $6,230,000 from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on February 8, 2023.

Mustapha, who was testifying on Tuesday in the trial of former Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, said his signature was also forged, adding that he knew nothing about the money said to have been withdrawn for the payment of foreign election observers.

The ex-SGF, who spoke as a prosecution witness, told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama that it was not the business of the Federal Government or the office of the SGF to request for funds from the CBN for the payment of foreign election observers.

He said it was solely the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deal with issues relating to election observers and other election-related matters.

A Deputy Director in the CBN, Michael Onyeka Ogbu had said on Monday that the money was handed in cash to an official from the office of the SGF named Jibril Abubakar upon approvals by President Buhari and Emefiele following a request by the SGF.

The prosecution is accusing Emefiele of being behind the withdrawal.

Led in evidence by the lawyer to the prosecution, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Mustapha, dressed in blue kaftan and a cap, identified Emefiele (who was seated in the dock) when asked if he knew who the defendant in the case was.

Mustapha, who said he is a lawyer and called to the Nigerian Bar in 1980, said Emefiele was the Governor of the CBN when he served as the SGF from 2017 to 2023.

When asked if he knew anything about the transaction relating to the payment of the $6,230,000, Mustapha said: “I wish to state that, up until when I left office, I knew nothing about this transaction.”

He was then shown a document, marked as Exhibit PD7 said to be a letter from President Buhari, approving the payment and asked if he recognised the document.

Mustapha said he was seeing the document for the first time in the court and that he never came across the document before.

He added: “On the face value of this document, having served (as the SGF) for five years and months, I can say that this document did not emanate from the office of the president.”

He gave reasons why he believed the document was not from Buhari to include that a correspondence that has the seal of the President, does not carry a reference number, adding that the seal serves the authority.

“Looking at the signature, it is a faint attempt at reproducing President Muhammadu Buhari’s signature,” he said.

He also faulted the document on the ground that it was purported to convey a decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is not normally conveyed via letters.

“I have looked at it. I have read it. Federal Executive Council’s decisions are not transmitted by letter. They are transmitted through extracts. After conclusions are adopted.

“I am the custodian of the record of the Federal Executive Council. So for that reason, the President will not be referring the conclusion of EXCO to me.

“In all the five years and seven months that I served, I have never heard of the term – Special Appropriation Provision – that was referred to here (in the letter),” Mustapha said.

The witness said he was only familiar with appropriation, as provided by the Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly and Supplementary Appropriation.

He also faulted the concluding part of the letter, saying that it was unusual for the President to end his letter to the SGF by saying “Please accept the assurances of my highest regard.”

He said being the President’s subordinate, his letter to the SGF can not end in that manner.

Mustapha also said the Nigerian government has no business funding foreign election observers, adding: “That I know as a fact because I have managed two election circles. INEC has the sole responsibility in that area.”

On the claim in the letter that the decision to approve money for foreign election observers was taken at the 187th FEC meeting held on January 18, 2023, the witness said it was not true.

He agreed that there was actually an FEC meeting on January 18, 2023 but that the meeting was presided over by the Vice President because the President was not around.

The witness also said the issue of payment to foreign election observers never featured on the meeting’s agenda which he prepared as the SGF.

“My role as the secretary is to prepare the agenda for the meeting and on that day there was a 16-point agenda. There was no item on the agenda that has to do with payment to foreign election observers,” he said.

When shown another document, marked: Exhibit PD6, said to be his letter conveying the presidential approval to the Governor of the CBN, Mustapha also faulted it.

He said: “To the best of my knowledge, this letter did not emanate from the office of the SGF. If it did not emanate form the office then I did not sign it. No, I did not sign it.”