The alleged corruption trial of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, and two others continued today at the Federal High Court, Lagos, with the operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), who investigated the matter giving evidence.
The investigator, Usman Zakari, who appeared as the second prosecution witness narrated to the court how Akinjide and others allegedly took delivery of a cash sum of N650 million March in 2015.
According to the witness, Akinjide and two others collected the sum of N650million cash at the Dugbe branch of Fidelity Bank plc in Ibadan on the standing instruction of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Zakari said his investigation revealed that the N650 million was part of a total sum of N23billion which Diezani warehoused in the bank.
He said he found that the N23billion was the naira equivalent of a total of $115.01 million , which Diezani collected from three oil marketers and one Lano Adesanya in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
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 Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo and some oil marketers.
At the meeting, the ex-Petroleum Minister, according to Zakari, informed Okonkwo that the oil marketers would be bringing different dollar sums to him, which she instructed the then bank Managing Director to help her keep in the bank’s vault until further instructions.
The investigator said pursuant to the meeting, one Auctus Integrated Limited took $17.8million to the bank; another company, Northern Belt Oil and Gas, took $60 million to the bank; while one Mid-Western Oil Services Limited also paid $9.5m.
“An individual, Lano Adesanya, brought the sum of $1.8 million; our findings further revealed that the three oil marketers made payment of the sum of $89 million and some fractions. Investigations further revealed that the then Petroleum Minister’s aides made available $25million and some fractions in suitcases, which were warehoused in Fidelity Bank’s cash vault,” the investigator narrated.
He added that “upon the receipt of the money by Fidelity Bank, the then Petroleum Minister, Dieziani Alison Madueke instructed Fidelity Bank to convert the said amount to naira, precisely on March 26, 2015.
“Fidelity Bank complied with the instruction; the said amount was converted into naira to the tune of N23billion and some fractions.
“After the conversion, the then Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, instructed Fidelity Bank to pay the 1st defendant (Akinjide) and the 2nd defendant (Senator Ayo Adeseun) and one Mr. Yinka Taiwo the sum of N650million, through her son, Ogbonna Madueke.
“The 1st defendant and the 2nd defendant and Mr. Yinka Taiwo then proceeded to Fidelity Bank, Dugbe branch in Ibadan, Oyo State and signed a receipt of payment individually for the collection of N650million.
“They signed for the money and took it to the residence of the 1st defendant (Akinjide).
“The defendants made a cash payment of N650 million 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 further 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, Fidelity 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.
“The evidence given by PW2 of his investigative findings cannot be hearsay.
“In view of the fact that the evidence that Zakari gave was the discovery he made in the course of his investigation, the law is settled that such evidence cannot amount to hearsay,” Oyedepo contended, urging the judge to dismiss the objection.
After listening arguments from all the parties, the trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan adjourned the matter till March 23, 2018 and April 9,2018 for further proceedings.