Obanikoro testifies against Fayose in alleged fraud case

Former minister of state for defence, Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro, yesterday appeared before a Federal High Court in Lagos to give evidence in the trial of the former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, facing charges of laundering N6.9 billion.

Fayose was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on October 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Limited, on 11 counts. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.

Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, appeared for the 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. He told the court that, at that time, he was the minister of state for defence. He was then asked to tell the court what he knew in relation to the instant case.

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 (retd).

Obanikoro said he replied there was none, but promised to check with the NSA, 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 was transferred and he replied in the affirmative. He told the court that, on June 13 and 16, there were deposits into the account, which was from the account of the NSA.

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

According to Obankoro, the money was eventually brought in a bullion van to the private wing of the Ikeja Airport, where Agbele, sent by Fayose, was already waiting, 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 Spotless Hotel, and, there, he handed him the dollar part of the funds, which amounted to five million dollars.

Jacobs asked, “How many days to the Ekiti State election did you give him the money?” Obanikoro replied: “About three days to the election.”

Jacobs also asked Obanikoro the source of the money, and he said: “The NSA is the only person that can ascertain the source of the money; it was from the imprest account of the NSA.”

When asked how the money was debited, Obanikoro told the court that he gave instructions to the managing director of the 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 evidence on that.

After his evidence, the defence sought an adjournment to enable it cross-examine the witness and, after several objections, and counter-objections, the court eventually granted an adjournment till 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 N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his governorship election campaign in Ekiti State, “which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of crime.”

Fayose was alleged to have received cash of $5 million (about N1.8 billion) from Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.

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