Obanikoro and Fayose

Akin Kuponiyi

A former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro on Monday appeared before a Federal High Court in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria to give evidence in the trial of former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, facing charges of laundering N6.9 billion.

Fayose was arraigned by The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Oct. 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd., on 11 counts charge.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum by the court.

Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) appeared for EFCC, while Messrs Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) represented  Fayose and his company respectively.

While being led in evidence, Jacobs asked Obanikoro where he was in 2014. In his response, he told the court that as at that time, he was the Minister of State for Defence. He was then asked to tell the court what he knew in relations to the instant case.

In his response, Obanikoro told the court that in June 2014, close to the Ekiti State governorship election, he received a call from Fayose, inquiring if there was any message for him from the then National Security Adviser, (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.

Obanikoro said he replied there was none, but had promised to check with the NSA and revert back, adding that eventually, the NSA confirmed to him that he had a “message” for Fayose and that the funds would be made available.

The prosecutor then showed the witness exhibit ‘E’ to confirm if it was the account in which the fund were transferred and he replied ‘yes.’

Looking at the exhibit, he told the court that on June 13 and 16, there were monetary postings into the account, which was from the impressed account of the NSA.

He said that he then inquired from Fayose how he wanted the money, and that he was informed that some amount should be sent in Naira while the others sent in dollars.

According to Obankoro, the money was eventually brought in a bullion van to the private wing of the Ikeja Airport, where one Agbele sent by Fayose, was already on standby, adding that after confirmation from Fayose, the money was airlifted to Ekiti.

Obanikoro further told the court that afterwards, he went to Ado-Ekiti to meet Fayose in his Hotel known as Spotless, and that there, he handed him the dollar content which amounted to five million dollars.

Mr Jacob then asked “how many days to the Ekiti State election did you give him the money?”

Obanikoro answered: “about three days to the election.”

Jacob also asked Obanikoro the source of the money, to which he replied, “the NSA is the only person that can ascertain the source of the money; it is from the impressed account of the NSA.”

When asked how the money was debited, Obanikoro told the court that he gave instructions to the Managing Director of Diamond Bank, but was not available when the deductions were made.

When asked his connection with the accounts, Obanikoro replied that it was used for security purposes, adding that he did not wish to divulge further evidences on that.

After his evidence, the defence counsels then sought for an adjournment to enable them cross-examine the witness, and after several objections, and counter objections, the court eventually granted an adjournment until February 4, 5 and 6 for cross-examination.

According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of five million dollars, (about N1.8 billion) from Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.

He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in his Zenith Bank account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he ought to have known formed part of proceeds of crime.

Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd. and Still Earth Ltd., to retain in their Zenith and FCMB accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Besides, he was alleged to have used the aggregate sums of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which sums he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

The accused was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million, to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also forms crime proceeds.

The offences alleged to have been committed by the defendants contravenes the provisions of sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011,