May 28, 2024

Lamorde’s Burial: Court defers hearing of EFCC’s case against Emefiele, Sirika

EFCC files amended charges against Emefiele; ex-CBN boss gets travel permission

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja

 The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Tuesday, deferred hearing of separate cases the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, entered against the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

The court adjourned further proceedings in both cases till Wednesday to allow the lawyers prosecuting the matters to attend the burial of a former Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde.
The adjournments came after witnesses had already mounted the box in both cases.

Whereas the former CBN governor, Emefiele, is facing a four-count charge before Justice Maryanne Anenih of the Maitama branch of the court, on the other hand, the erstwhile Aviation Minister, Sirika, his brother, Ahmad and two companies- Enginos Nigeria Limited, and Samahah Integrated Investments Limited- are answering to a 10-count charge before Justice Suleiman Belgore of a branch of the high court at Garki.

The EFCC, in the charge marked: CR/264/2024, alleged that Emefiele had without authorization from former President Muhammadu Buhari, printed N684million Naira Notes with the total sum of N18.96billion.

The further accused the former CBN boss of unlawfully approving the withdrawal of about N124.8bn from the consolidated revenue fund.

According to the EFCC, the defendant, acting in violation of law and “with intent to cause injury to the public,” okayed the printing of naira notes without the approval of both former President Buhari and the board of the CBN.

The court had in a ruling it delivered on May 15, granted Emefiele bail to the tune of N300m.

At the resumed sitting on the matter on Tuesday, the prosecution called the former Director, Currency Operations at the CBN, Ahmed Bello Umar, as its first witness.

Led in evidence by EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, Umar, explained that the management of the apex bank comprised of two major structures – the Committee of Governors, COG, and the Board of Directors, BOD.

Umar further explained that the BOD was made up of five members, which included the CBN governor as the Chairman, and the four Deputy governors of the bank as members.

The witness said the BOD was the highest decision making body of the CBN, while the COG took care of  operational matters relating to the day-to-day running of the bank.

Umar recalled that sometimes in August 2022, the management of the CBN directed his department to come up with a memo on the redesign of the naira notes.

“We prepared the memo for the consideration of the COG and passed it through the line Deputy Governor, (that is Deputy Governor, Operations), which he forwarded to the Governor,” he said

The witness added that the COG deliberated on the memo until October 2022 when its directions and approvals were forwarded to his department.

He said after the meeting of the COGs on October 26, the Corporate Secretariat Dept conveyed an anticipatory approval from the COGs, pending ratification by the BOGs.

The witness said the COG did not approve all the request as contained in the memo prepared by his department, adding that while some were rejected, some were modified.

He told the court that the procedure to issue new notes or coins required the BOD to relate with the President on the design, form and devices that should be contained in the currency.

The witness added that the President must give his approval before the production of the currency woould commence.

It was at this point in his testimony that the prosecution counsel persuaded the court to adjourn the matter to enable him to attend Lamorde’s burial.

The request was not opposed by the defence lawyer, Mahmud Magaji, SAN.

Likewise, in the trial of the ex-Aviation Minister, Sirika, who is on trial over his alleged complicity in contract award scam, the matter was adjourned shortly after the first witness, Musa Odiniya, who is a former Director of Procurement in the Federal Ministry of Aviation, mounted the box.

The prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, applied for an adjournment while the witness was explaining the procurement procedure in the ministry and the process for the award of contracts.

Jacob’s request to be allowed to attend the burial of the former EFCC boss, Lamorde, was not also opposed by counsel to the defendants, Magaji Numa, SAN, and Sunusi Musa, SAN.