Emefiele: Why We Released $6.2m For Election Observers -CBN Director
A senior official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Michael Onyeka Ogbu has explained why the apex bank released $6,230,000 for the payment of some international election observers before the last general elections.
Ogbu, currently a deputy director and head of the service delivery division of the CBN, said the funds were released because the request documents contained evidence of approvals by the then President Muhammadu Buhari and the immediate past Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele.
He spoke while testifying on Monday, February 12, as a prosecution witness in the trial of Emefiele.
Emefiele is being prosecuted on a 20-count amended charge, filed by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), in which he is among others, accused of engaging in criminal breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy to obtain by false pretence and obtaining money by false pretence.
He is, in the amended charge, accused of forging a document titled: Re: Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions dated 26 January, 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201 and purported same to have emanated from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the Governor of the CBN.
Emefiele was alleged to have, on February 8, 2023, knowingly obtained, by false pretence, $6,230,000.00 by falsely representing that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation vide a letter dated 26 January 2023 with Ref No. SGF 43/L.01/201 requested the CBN to provide a contingent logistic advance in the sum of $6,230,000 “in line with Mr. President’s directive.”
Ogbu, who was led in evidence on Monday by Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), said he served as the Branch Controller until he was redeployed in September 2023.
He recalled that on February 8, 2023, there was a payment request, addressed to the Branch Controller.
“On that day the request for the payment of $6,230,000 was received in my office by my Office Assistant, who brought it to my attention. When I received the document, I found that it was from the Banking Services Department.
“The Director, Banking Services signed the memo, and the content of the memo contained an instruction for the Branch Controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the Secretary to the government of the federation, with the identity and the name of the person mentioned.
“The memo said the payment was for international election observers and that we should debit an account – Naira Forex Account – with the naira equivalent of $6,230,000.
“The memo also said that the money will be refunded in the second quarter of 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“It went on to say ‘find attached the approval of the governor of the CBN for the payment.’
“The attachment had the approval of the governor of the CBN. It also had the approval of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the request letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”
Ogbu said after going through the documents and being satisfied, he minuted on it to the Head of the Business Services Unit for processing and payment.
On whether the money was eventually released, the witness said: “Payment was eventually made. The $6,230,000 was paid on the 8th of September 2023. The payment was in cash.”
At that point, Oyedepo handed the witness a bundle of documents, which Ogbu identified as the documents he referred to.
Identifying each of the documents one at a time, the witness said the first page “is the payment slip which was issued at the point of payment from my bank to the person nominated to receive the payment.
“The second page is the memo from the Banking Services Department, authorising the Branch to make the payment of $6,230,000.
“The third page is the request of the Director, Banking Services Department for approval of the Governor for the payment”
The witness said the fourth page contained a copy of the identification of the authorized cashier and an identity card from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The fifth page, the witness said was a draft of the memo for approval, which was sent to the Governor, from the Banking Services Department, containing the governor’s okay (approval) and signature.
The sixth page, Ogbu said, was the request letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, addressed to the Governor of the CBN conveying presidential approval for the payment of the $6,230,000.
Ogbu told the court that the presidential approval was addressed to the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
Oyedepo was in the process of tendering the documents when he noticed that some of them were not properly certified.
He prayed the court to be allowed to tender them as they were, with a promise to replace them later with properly certified copies, a request the defence lawyer, Matthew Burkaa (SAN) rejected.
Oyedepo then urged the court to grant him a brief stand down of about 30 minutes to get the documents certified, which Burkaa also rejected.
Burkaa argued that the prosecution couldn’t have the documents certified within the 30 minutes suggested by Oyedepo.
He urged the court to, instead, grant an adjournment to allow the prosecution sufficient time to put its house in order, an option the judge, Justice Hamza Muazu felt comfortable with.
With the agreement of lawyers to parties in the case, Justice Muazu adjourned till February 13 for the continuation of the trial.