By Innocent Anaba
An investigator, Usman Zakari, who appeared as the second prosecution witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, narrated to the court how former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide and others allegedly took delivery of a cash sum of N650m March in 2015.
Akinjide and two others are being prosecuted by the EFCC over alleged fraud.
According to Zakari, Akinjide and two others collected the N650m cash at the Dugbe branch of new generation bank in Ibadan, Oyo State on the standing instruction of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The witness said his investigation revealed that the N650m was part of a total sum of N23bn which Diezani warehoused in the bank.
He said he found that the N23bn was the naira equivalent of a total of $115.01m, which Diezani allogwdly collected from three oil marketers and one Lano Adesanya in the build-up to the 2015 general election.
Zakari, who was led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, said his investigation followed “a top classified Category A intelligence” about a meeting convened by Diezani in her house in December 2014.
According to him, the meeting was attended by Diezani, the Managing Director of the bank and some oil marketers.
At the meeting, the ex-Petroleum Minister, according to Zakari, informed the bank MD that the oil marketers would be bringing different dollar sums to him, which she instructed the bank chief to help her keep in the bank’s vault until further instructions.
The investigator said pursuant to the meeting, one Autus Integrated Limited took $17.8m to the bank; another company, Northern Belt Oil and Gas, took $60m to the bank; while one Mid-Western Oil Services Limited also paid $9.5m.
“An individual, Lano Adesanya, brought the sum of $1.8m; our findings further revealed that the three oil marketers made payment of the sum of $89m and some fractions.
“Investigations further revealed that the then Petroleum Minister’s aides made available $25m and some fractions in suitcases, which were warehoused in the bank’s cash vault,” the investigator narrated.
“Upon the receipt of the money by the Bank, the then Petroleum Minister instructed the bank to convert the said amount into naira, precisely on March 26, 2015.
“The bank complied with the instruction; the said amount was converted into naira to the tune of N23bn and some fractions.
“After the conversion, the then petroleum minister, instructed the bank to pay the 1st defendant (Akinjide) and the 2nd defendant (Senator Ayo Adeseun) and one Mr. Yinka Taiwo the sum of N650m, through her son, Ogbonna Madueke.
“The 1st defendant and the 2nd defendant and Mr. Yinka Taiwo then proceeded to the bank, Dugbe branch in Ibadan, Oyo State and signed a receipt of payment individually for the collection of N650m.
“They signed for the money and took it to the residence of the 1st defendant (Akinjide).
“The defendants made a cash payment of N650m without going through any financial institution, an amount which was more than the amount authorised by law to be paid in cash,” Zakari said.
He told the court that upon being interrogated, Akinjide and Adeseun “admitted making cash payments in that amount.”
But the defence counsel, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, Michael Lana and Akinola Oladeji, urged the court to expunge Zakari’s entire evidence for being hearsay.
They contended that the investigator could not give evidence about the meeting in Diezani’s residence and the payments of money, which he did not personally witness.
“I’m placing reliance on Section 38 of the Evidence Act, which says that hearsay evidence is not admissible,” Oladeji argued.
He added that the persons competent to testify about the meeting were Diezani, the bank’s MD and the oil marketers who were present.
He said since it was not established that the people who attended the meeting were dead, Zakari could not testify about the meeting.
Same line of argument was pursued by Ayorinde and Lana.
But the prosecutor, Oyedepo, maintained that Zakari’s evidence was not hearsay but his personal findings in the course of his investigation.
Trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan adjourned till March 23, 2018 for further proceedings