Witness narrates how ex-CBN Gov Emefiele approved $6.2m for international election observers

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The first prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Godwin Emefiele, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Ogau Onyeka Michael, on Monday, February 12, 2024, told Justice Hamza Muazu of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama, Abuja, how the ex-CBN boss approved the payment of $6,230,000 in cash for international election observers in the last 2023 general election.

Michael made the revelation while testifying at the ongoing trial of Emefiele. The former CBN boss is standing trial before Justice Muazu on 20-count amended charges bordering on corrupt advantages, conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, forgery, and obtaining by false pretences to the tune of $6,230,000.

At the resumed trial on Monday, Michael, a former branch controller of the CBN, Abuja branch, was led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, who identified the documents presented to him by the prosecution, adding that he worked on the documents.

According to him, on January 8, 2023, a request for payment of $6,230,000 came to his office, and documents for the disbursement of the money in cash for international election observers were approved by the then-CBN boss.

“My Lord, all requests for payments are usually channelled to the branch controller, and that is my office. And on that day, My Lord, the request to my office was $6,230,000, and my attention was drawn towards it by my office assistant. It came from the Banking Services Department, and the memo carried the signature of the Director, Banking Services, with an instruction to the branch controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, bearing the name and identity card of the person,” he said.

Continuing, Michael explained that: “It stated that the payment was for election observance and be paid cash in the naira equivalent of the said amount. It further stated that the money should be refunded in the second quarter of 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Finance. My Lord, the document also stated that ‘find attached the approval of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the payment’.

“Also, the memo had an attached approval of the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation and that of the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having gone through the document and satisfied that it met the requirement, I then minuted it to the head of the Banking Services Unit for processing and subsequent payment. Mr. Williams, Head of Banking Services, compiled and made the payment on April 8, 2023, and the payment was in cash. I can identify the document because it also carries my signature.”

Oyedepo, while trying to tender all six documents as exhibits, told the court that two of the documents that had the former SGF and the President’s approval were photocopies and therefore sought to tender the remaining four, which were original, praying that the remaining two be tendered later in the course of the trial. He also asked the court for a 30-minute stand-down to go to the CBN complex and secure the original copies.

Defence counsel, Mathew Bukka, SAN, objected to Oyedepo’s prayers, arguing that since the case was slated for February 12 and 13, he moved that the matter be adjourned till February 13, arguing further that the 30 minutes sought by Oyedepo wouldn’t be enough for the prosecution to secure the original documents from the CBN.

After listening to their arguments, Justice Muazu adjourned the matter until February 13, 2024, for the continuation of the trial.

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