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Former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musuliu Obanikoro today gave evidence about the payment of about N1.2billion from the imprest account of the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose a few days to the 2014 gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State. Senator Obanikoro is the fifth prosecution witness in the criminal charge against Mr. Fayose at the Federal High Court, Lagos. Mr. Fayose and his company, Spotless Nigeria Limited were on the22nd of October 2018 arraigned, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on an eleven-count charge of money laundering.
In his testimony before the court today, Senator Obanikoro testified about being an intermediary between the National Security Adviser at the time, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Mr. Fayose. He told the court that being the Minister of State for Defence at the time, he received telephone calls from Mr. Fayose in the weeks preceding the Ekiti State gubernatorial elections in 2014 asking if there was any ‘message’ for him from the NSA. The NSA confirmed that there was indeed a ‘message’ and a few days to the elections, the NSA transferred money into an account titled ‘McNamara’- the sum of N200 million was transferred on the 5thof June 2014 while the sum of N2 billion was transferred on the 16thof June 2014. Speaking about the account, Senator Obanikoro testified that the account was opened prior to that time to tackle some very serious security challenges in Lagos that needed to be nipped in the bud “at all costs.” He stated that he could not divulge more than that about the said account.
He told the Court that when the money was paid into the account, he called Mr. Fayose to inform him and that Mr. Fayose stated that he wanted some part of the money converted to US dollars and some retained in local currency and that he wanted all in cash. He asked Diamond Bank to make the money available in Ekiti State but the bank stated that they could not handle that volume of cash in Ado-Ekiti. They thus did not have a choice but to physically move the cash from Lagos. The cash was moved from the head office of Diamond Bank in Lagos by bullion vans to the private wing of the airport in Ikeja where it was loaded into two aircrafts and flown to the airport in Akure. He testified that Mr. Fayose had told him that a Mr. Agbele would be at the airport to receive the portion of the money in Naira. Indeed at the airport in Akure, Mr. Agbele was waiting for him with a man he introduced as the bank manager of Diamond Bank, Akure. After confirming the identity of Mr. Agbele from Mr. Fayose via telephone, they moved the cash from the aircrafts into the bullion vans Mr. Agbele had brought while he proceeded to Ado-Ekiti to meet Mr. Fayose at his Spotless Hotel and handed him the foreign currency. He testified that a total of about 5 million Dollars was given to Mr. Fayose on two occasions. This incident took place about 3 days to the 2014 Ekiti State gubernatorial election.
When asked about the source of the money and if it could have belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Obanikoro stated that it is only the NSA at the time that can ascertain the source of the money but that from the records, the money was transferred from the imprest account of the NSA to the McNamara account.
At the conclusion of his evidence in chief, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN who is leading the defence team for Mr. Fayose and Mr. Olalekan Ojo SAN who is leading the defence team for Spotless Limited both pleaded for adjournments to cross-examine Senator Obanikoro. Though the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN objected, stating that the defendants and their counsel were aware well ahead of time that Senator Obanikoro would be a witness and had copies of his statements to the EFCC and thus his evidence wasn’t a surprise warranting an adjournment. He also stated that Senator Obanikoro had to travel from the United States to testify in the charge and has to return on health grounds.Justice Mojisola Olatoregun though initially adverse to an adjournment, upon the pleading of the lawyers to the defendants stated that she would be granting it on just this one occasion.
The charge has been adjourned to the 4thto 6thof February 2019 for continuation of trial.