Emefiele requested for the disbursement of $6.2m to observers, witness reveals

A deputy director, branch operations at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Onyeka Ogbu revealed that  former CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, sought approval for the disbursement of $6,230,000 to international election observers.

Ogbu said this while testifying before a federal capital territory high court in Maitama, as the first prosecution witness in the suit against Emefiele.

Leading the witness in evidence on Monday, Rotimi Oyedepo, EFCC lawyer, asked Ogbu to speak on certain documents regarding the case.

The documents, according to the witness, related to the disbursement of the said $6,230,000 funds.

“On January 8, 2023 request for payment of $6,230,000 was brought to my attention by the banking services department,” the witness said.

“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.

“Having gone through the documents and satisfied, I minuted on it and sent for processing and disbursement which was complied with.”

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 the point of tendering the documents, the prosecution counsel noticed that two of the documents were not properly certified. Oyedepo then sought a stand-down to enable them get the certified true copies.

However, Matthew Burkaa, counsel to Emefiele, opposed the application.

He said an adjournment was better to allow the prosecution get all the certified true copies of all the needed documents and also for the witness to be cross-examined.

After listening to their submissions, Hamza Muazu, presiding judge, adjourned until Tuesday for the continuation of the trial.

The federal government, on January 18, amended the criminal charges filed against the former CBN governor. The charges, formerly six counts, were increased to 20 counts.

The amended charges border on alleged criminal breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, procurement fraud and conspiracy to commit a felony.

At the previous hearing, the court agreed to vary Emefiele’s bail condition which previously restricted him to the FCT.

The court granted the application permitting the former CBN governor to travel within Nigeria but restrained him from leaving the country during the pendency of the case.

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