Alleged N4.6bn Fraud: ‘I Was Cleared Of Financial Crime By EFCC After 21 Days In Custody – Obanikoro
Former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro on Tuesday told Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, that he was cleared of any financial crime, after spending 21 days in the detention of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Obanikoro, made stated this while giving evidence in the trial of the former Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, who is being tried on alleged N4.6 billion fraud.
The former Minister said: “I was invited by the EFCC in 2016, and I came in from the United States of America but was incarcerated twenty-one days (21), even when there is a presumption of innocence in law when allegation like this arise.
“A letter of complaint was written from the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), but I believe that it was written out of ignorance because after all the investigation, common sense prevailed, and I was exonerated.”
Speaking while testifying on how a sum to the tune of N2.2bn was budgeted for the 2014 Ekiti State governorship election for Fayose from the Office of the NSA, Obanikoro, insisted that the funds came from the NSA’s impress account to the corporate account of Silver Maclamaran Nigeria Limited.
However, under cross-examination by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Olalekan Ojo, the witness distanced himself from the operation of Silver Maclamaran Nigeria Limited, the company account that was used to warehouse the sum of N2.2bn from NSA’s impress account.
When asked what he knows about a committee for fundraising towards the 2014 Ekiti State governorship election, Obanikoro, posited, “yes, I was the chairman of the committee and a lot of funds were contributed even up to the national level of our party.”
When also asked by Ojo (SAN) if he can remember the name of any member of the funds raising committee, he said, “yes I can remember T. K Aluko and Lateef Agbaje.”
When equally asked if he was a signatory to Silver Maclamaran Nigeria Limited, which received the funds from the Office of NSA, he said ‘No’.
When further asked who were the signatories to the company account, the witness answered and said, Olalekan Olalere.
Obanikoro, however, answered in the affirmative, when asked if he is the owner of Silver Maclamaran Nigeria Limited.
The matter has been adjourned until March 20 and 21, 2023, for further trial.
The former Ekiti governor was first docked on October 22, 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olarotegun alongside his company, Spotless Investment Limited on 11 counts.
Fayose pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail on October 24, 2018, in the sum of N50 million with two sureties in like sum.
He was, however, re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on July 2, 2019, after the case was withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun following a petition from the EFCC.
The former governor had also pleaded not guilty to the charge and was allowed to continue on the bail earlier granted.
According to the charge against Fayose, on June 17, 2014, he and Abiodun Agbele, illegally took possession of N1.2 billion for the purpose of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State.
The former governor was equally alleged to have received a cash payment of five million dollars (about N1.8 billion) from Obanikoro without going through any financial institution.
He is also charged with unlawfully retaining N300 million in a bank account and illegally taking control of about N622 million.
The EFCC alleged that the former governor reasonably ought to know that the money was part of crime proceeds.
The anti-graft agency further alleged that the defendants procured De Privateer Limited and Still Earth Limited to illegally retain N851 million.
Fayose used about N1.6 billion in crime proceeds to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, the Commission added.
It also charged Fayose with using N200 million in crime proceeds to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji.
The offence, according to the EFCC, contravenes Sections 15(1), 15(2), 15(3), 16(2)(b), 16(d), and 18(c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2011.