Alleged fraud: Emefiele does not own company and was awarded N1.2 billion contract – witness

The Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama on Tuesday commenced a comprehensive hearing into the case of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Godwin Emefiele.

The first witness, Samsudeen Romanus, confirmed during his Evidence-in-Chief in court that the beleaguered former head of the apex bank had no ownership or shareholding in Investment Limited of April 1616. This firm was accused by the anti-graft agency of to unlawfully obtain contracts, a claim that was refuted by the defendant.

As the first witness (PW-1), Romanus, a prominent official of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), was called by the EFCC to give testimony. Led by the legal representative of EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, the witness disclosed the names of all the shareholders of the company. The joint owners notably included Aminu Idris Yaro, Maryam Aliyu Abdullahi and Saadatu Ramalan Yaro.

Romanus filed several documents illustrating the incorporation of the company on August 1, 2016, highlighting that Emefiele's name does not appear in any of the ownership documents. He clarified that while the CAC handled the incorporation process, it did not participate in the day-to-day operations of the entity.

Following his testimony, the second witness, Remigious Ugwu, a Compliance Officer at Zenith Bank Plc, detailed to the court the sequence of monetary transactions into the account of April1616 Investment Limited by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Ugwu informed the court that the sum of N39,060,465 was deposited into the company's account on October 19, 2020, followed by another N421,953,488 on November 6, 2020 and a third sum of N304,883,720 on November 23, 2020, all from the CBN.

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The witness explicitly stated that none of these payments were linked to Emefiele's name and stated that he had no knowledge of the purpose behind these transactions. Furthermore, Ugwu clarified that the former CBN governor was not a signatory to the bank account of April1616 Investment Limited.

As the second witness (PW-2), Ugwu submitted several documents on behalf of the bank in support of his testimony, thereby strengthening the claim that Emefiele had no direct involvement in the financial activities of the said company.

Similarly, the third witness, Oluwole Owoeye, Deputy Director of Banking Services at CBN and former Secretary of the Major Contract Tendering Committee MCTC of the CBN, said his organization was responsible for ensuring that contracts awarded by the apex bank were compliant to the procurement law. .

Owoeye told the court that his committee was not involved in vetting tenders for the award of contracts that led to the prosecution of Emefiele.

The PW-3 explained that another committee was handling the bidding process for the contracts as it was above the threshold his committee could handle.

“Your Honor, all I know from our records is that the contracts for the award of vehicle supplies were awarded in April 1616, but I cannot say whether the contracts were executed or paid for because my committee played no role,” added he added.

He told the court that MCTC and the Procurement Department were fully functioning while Emefiele held sway as governor of CBN.

Meanwhile, trial judge Hamza Muazu has postponed further proceedings in the case until January 18 and 19, 2024.

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Recall that the court on November 22 granted bail to the former CBN governor in the sum of N300 million. However, almost a week after the court ruling, Emefiele had failed to comply with his bail conditions and attended his trial from the Kuje Correctional Center on Tuesday.

As part of the bail conditions, the court required Emefiele to produce two sureties who must be residents of FCT Abuja and own land properties in Maitama District worth the bail amount.

Justice Muazu expressed his intention to grant the bail application filed by Emefiele through his legal team, led by Mr. Mathew Burkaa, SAN.

The court had previously ordered Emefiele to surrender all his travel documents. On November 17, the former CBN governor pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him by the anti-graft agency. The case centers on allegations of tender fraud, with Emefiele consistently maintaining his innocence.

Specifically, in the amended indictment marked CR/577/2023, Emefiele was charged with complicity in procurement fraud worth about N1.2 billion.

Although the initial indictment filed against him by the EFCC contained 20 counts and had a female CBN employee, Sa'adatu Yaro and her company, April 1616 Investment, as defendants, only Emefiele was named as a defendant in the amended indictment.

The prosecution alleged that the former CBN governor illegally purchased 43 vehicles worth N1.2 billion between 2018 and 2020.

He was further accused of giving Yaro a corrupt advantage by awarding her a contract to purchase 37 Toyota Hilux vehicles worth N854 million.

One of the charges in the indictment read: “That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, male, adult, sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court used your position as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa . 'adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, by awarding a contract for the supply of 37 Toyota Hilux vehicles at the sum of N854,700,000 only to April1616 Investment Ltd, a company in which the said Sa'adatu Ramallan Yaro is a driver and has therefore committed an offense.”

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President Bola Tinubu had on June 9 suspended Emefiele as head of the apex bank.

The Department of State Services, DSS, later arrested him at his residence in Lagos.

Emefiele has since faced a two-count indictment for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition at the Federal High Court in Lagos, as well as a 20-count indictment for corruption.

Proceedings in both cases were stayed following the defendants' decision to explore a plea deal with FG.

The former CBN boss was later transferred to the EFCC detention center by the DSS on October 26.

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After filing a fundamental rights enforcement suit through his legal representatives, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi on November 8 secured his immediate release from detention. He has already been held in custody by security services for 151 days.

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