By Davidson Iriekpen
A Federal High Court in Lagos was yesterday told how former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide, and two others collected N650 million each from the slush funds warehoused at the Ibadan, Oyo State branch of a new generation bank by former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
This was disclosed at the continuation of the trial of Akinjide, Senator Ayo Adeseun, and Yinka Taiwo arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for money laundering before Justice Muslim Hassan.
The investigator, Usman Zakari, who appeared as the second prosecution witness in the case, narrated to the court how Akinjide and others allegedly took delivery of a cash sum of N650million in March 2015.
According to him, Akinjide and two others collected the N650million cash at the Dugbe branch of the bank in Ibadan on the standing instruction of Alison-Madueke.
Zakari said his investigation revealed that the N650m was part of N23bn which Alison-Madueke warehoused in the bank.
He said he found that the N23bn was the naira equivalent of $115.01m, which Alison-Madueke 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 â€œa top classified Category A intelligenceâ€ about a meeting convened by Diezani in her house in December 2014.
At the meeting, the ex-petroleum minister, according to Zakari, informed the Managing Director of the bankÂ that the oil marketers would be bringing different dollar sums to him, which she instructed the bank chief to help her keep in the bankâ€™s vault until further instructions.
The investigator said pursuant to the meeting, one Auctus 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.
â€œAn 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 ministerâ€™s aides made available $25m and some fractions in suitcases, which were warehoused in the bankâ€™s cash vault,â€ the investigator narrated.
He added that â€œupon the receipt of the money by the bank, the then petroleum minister instructed it 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.
â€œAfter the conversion, the then petroleum minister Alison-Madueke, 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.
â€œThe 1st defendant and the 2nd defendant and Mr. Yinka Taiwo then proceeded to the bankâ€™s Dugbe branch in Ibadan 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).
â€œThe 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,â€ Zakari said.
He told the court that upon being interrogated, Akinjide and Adeseun â€œadmitted making cash payments in that amount.â€
But the defence counsel, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Michael Lana and Akinola Oladeji, urged the court to expunge Zakariâ€™s entire evidence for being hearsay.
They contended that the investigator could not give evidence about the meeting in Alison-Maduekeâ€™s residence and the payments of money, which he did not personally witness.
â€œIâ€™m placing reliance on Section 38 of the Evidence Act, which says that hearsay evidence is not admissible,â€ Oladeji argued.
He added that the persons competent to testify about the meeting were Alison-Madueke,Â bankâ€™s Managing Director 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 Zakariâ€™s evidence was not hearsay but his personal findings in the course of his investigation.
â€œThe evidence given by PW2 of his investigative findings cannot be hearsay.
â€œIn view of the fact that the evidence that PW2 gave was the discovery he made in the course of his investigation, the law is settled that such evidence cannot amount to hearsay,â€ Oyedepo contended, urging the judge to dismiss the objection.
Justice Hassan adjourned till March 23, 2018 for further proceedings.