A deputy director in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Michael Onyeka Ogbu, has explained why the apex bank released $6,230,000 as payment to some international election observers prior to last year’s general election.
Ogbu, who is currently a Deputy Director and Head of the Service Delivery Division at the CBN, said the funds were released because the request documents contained evidence of approvals by the then President Muhammadu Buhari and erstwhile CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele.
The deputy director said this while testifying yesterday as a prosecution witness in the trial of the former CBN governor.
Emefiele is facing a 20-count amended charge filed by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in which he is, among others, accused of engaging in criminal breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy to obtain by false pretence and obtaining money by false pretence.
He is, in the amended charge, accused of forging a document, titled: Re: Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions, dated: January 26, 2023 with reference number SGF.43/L.01/201 and purported same to have emanated from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) to the governor of the CBN.
Emefiele is alleged to have, on February 8, 2023, knowingly obtained by false pretence $6,230,000.00 by falsely representing that the SGF vide a letter, dated: January 26, 2023, with reference number SGF 43/L.01/201 requested the CBN to provide a contingent logistic advance in the sum of $6,230,000 “in line with Mr. President’s directive”.
Ogbu, who was led in evidence by Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), said he served as the Branch Controller until he was redeployed last September.
He recalled that on February 8, last year, there was a request for payment addressed to the Branch Controller.
Ogbu said after going through the documents and was satisfied, he minuted on it to the Head of Business Services Unit for processing and payment.
On whether the money was eventually released, the witness said: “Payment was eventually made. The $6,230,000 was paid on September 8, 2023. The payment was in cash.”
At that point, Oyedepo handed the witness a bundle of documents, which Ogbu identified as the documents he referred to.
Identifying each of the documents one at a time, the witness said the first page “is the payment slip, which was issued at the point of payment from my bank to the person nominated to receive the payment”.
He added: “The second page is the memo from the Banking Services Department authorising the branch to make the payment of $6,230,000.
“The third page is the request of the Director of Banking Services Department for approval of the Governor for the payment.”
The witness explained what pages four to six contained.
Ogbu told the court that the presidential approval was addressed to the then SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha.
Oyedepo was about tendering the documents when he noticed that some of them were not properly certified.
The laywer prayed the court to be allowed to tender them as they were with a promise to replace them later with properly certified copies, a request the defence lawyer, Matthew Burkaa (SAN), rejected.
He also urged the court to grant him a stand-down of about 30 minutes to get the documents certified, which Burkaa also rejected.
Burkaa argued that it was impossible for the prosecution to have the documents certified within the 30 minutes Oyedepo requested for.
He urged the court to instead grant an adjournment to allow the prosecution sufficient time to put its house in order, an option the judge, Justice Hamza Muazu, felt comfortable with.
With the agreement of lawyers to parties in the case, Justice Muazu adjourned till February 13 for continuation of trial.