The trial of Mr. Godwin Emefiele, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, resumed on Monday before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, with the lead witness, Mr. Onyeka Ogbu, recounting how the defendant approved the release of $6,230,000 to international election observers.
Ogbu, the first witness, PW-1, in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) amended 20-count complaint against Emefiele, informed the court that he is a Deputy Director at the CBN in charge of branch operations.
Led in evidence by the EFCC’s counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, the witness identified several documents he claimed were related to the payment of approved cash to international election observers.
He informed the court that his attention was drawn to the approval by one of the apex bank’s departments and that it was his obligation to process the release of the requested funds in accordance with due process.
“On January 8, 2023, the request for payment of $6,230, 000 was brought to my attention by the Banking Services Department.
“Ours is to make payment. We do not have the power to approve.
“So, having gone through the documents and been satisfied, I minuted on them and sent them for processing and disbursement, which was complied with,” the witness added.
Meanwhile, as the witness was identifying the documents, it was noticed that two were missing.
As a result, the prosecution counsel sought that the trial be halted to allow him to get the missing documents.
However, Emefiele’s lawyer, Mr. Matthew Burkaa, SAN, urged that instead of a standdown, the case should be deferred till a later date to allow the prosecution to clean house and cross-examine the witness.
Justice Hamza Muazu therefore deferred the subject to Tuesday for the continuation of the hearing.
It should be noted that on January 20, the anti-graft agency re-arraigned the former CBN chairman on an amended charge that included criminal conspiracy, forgery, breach of trust, and the claim that he conferred undue advantage on himself.
The EFCC initially filed a six-count indictment against the defendant for alleged involvement in a N1.2 billion procurement fraud.
In the updated allegation, the agency accused the defendant of collecting around $6.2 million by false pretence, claiming that he falsely represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
He was charged with violating Section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act of 2006, which is punished under Section 1(3).
According to the amended charge, marked CR/577/2023, Emefiele, on February 8, 2023, connived with one Odoh Ocheme, who is now on the run, to obtain $6.2 million from the CBN, claiming that it was requested by the SGF to “vide a letter dated January 26, 2023 with Reference No. SGF.43/L.01/201.”
EFCC alleged that the defendant, in January 2023, forged the document titled, “Re: Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions.”
It also claimed that the contract for the restoration of the CBN Governor’s Lodge, located at No. 2 Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, was awarded to a firm called Messrs. Architekon Nigeria Limited, whose directors and majority owners included Emefiele’s wife and brother-in-law.
According to the EFCC, the defendant committed crimes under sections 17, 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Act of 2000, as well as sections 315, 363, and 364 of the Penal Code.
On November 22, 2023, the court granted Emefiele bail in the amount of N300 million, with two sureties in the same quantity.
The court emphasised that the sureties must be residents of the FCT Abuja and owners of landed properties in the Maitama District.
In addition, the court took the defendant’s travel documents.
One of the counts in the amended charge read: “That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, male, adult, sometime in March 2020 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did use your position as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on your wife, Omoile Margret, and brother-in-law, Omoile Macombo, by awarding a contract for the external renovation of the CBN Governor’s residence lying, being, and situated at No. 2 Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, in the sum of N99.826m to Messrs Architekon Nigeria Limited, a company wherein the duo are directors and majority shareholders, and you thereby committed an offence.”