EFCC calls 3 witnesses as 1.2bn procurement fraud trial of Emefiele begins

Godwin Emefiele in court

Godwin Emefiele in Court

By Edith Nwapi

The trial of former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele on an amended six count charge over alleged procurement fraud while he was in office began in the Federal Capital Territory High Court on Tuesday with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, calling three witnesses.

EFCC charged Emefiele with six counts bordering on alleged breach of procurement procedure in the award of the contract to April1616 Investment Limited.

Emefiele was accused of conferring corrupt advantages on a staff of CBN, one Mrs Sa’adatu Yaro and a company, April 1616 Investment Limited, purported to belong to Mrs Yaro, through awards of vehicle supply contracts worth over N1.2bn contrary to section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000.

The first prosecution witness called by the EFCC on Tuesday was Shamsudeen Abulili, a staff of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

He gave evidence on how the company April 1616 Investment Limited was incorporated on August 1, 2016, with RC: 1350837 and tendered several documents on how the company was floated.

He also read out the names of the shareholders of the Company which comprised Aminu Idris Yaro, with 500,000 shares, Maryam Aliyu Abdullahi, 350,000 and Saadatu Yaro, 150, 000 in court.

Led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness however said that Emefiele’s name was not in any way connected with the company.

The witness explained that although CAC was responsible for incorporation of the company, it however has no roles in the day-to-day running of affairs of the entity.

The second witness, Remigious Ugwu, a Compliance Officer with Zenith Bank told the court how various sums of money in millions of naira were paid by the CBN into the April1616 Investment Limited.

Specifically, he told the court how on Oct.19, 2020, a sum of N39, 060, 465 was paid, another N421, 953, 488 was paid on Nov. 6, 2020, and the third one N304, 883, 720 was paid on Nov. 23, 2020, to the same company by CBN.

Similarly, he said that N304,883,720 was paid on January 1, 2021, and another N304, 883, 720 paid to the same company on March 23, 2021 by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

He admitted that none of the payments had any link with Emefiele’s name while also that he did not know the purpose of the payments.

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The witness who tendered various documents on behalf of the bank said that the former CBN governor was not a signatory to the bank account of the company.

The third witness, Oluwole Owoeye, a Deputy Director, Banking Services with CBN and former Secretary to the Major Contract Tendering Committee MCTC of the CBN said that his body was responsible for ensuring of compliance with the Procurement Act told the court CBN in the award of contracts.

When cross-examined by Emefiele ‘s counsel, Matthew Burkaa, SAN, Owoeye informed the court that his committee was not involved in the vetting of bidding for the award of contracts that led to the prosecution of Emefiele.

The witness explained that another committee handled the bidding because it was above the thresholds of his own Committee

” My Lord, all I know is through our records is that contracts for the award of vehicle supplies were awarded to April 1616, but I cannot say whether the contracts were executed or paid for because my Committee played no role”

He admitted that MCTC and Procurement Department were fully functional while Emefiele held sway as CBN governor.

After listening to these testimonies, Justice Hamza Muazu adjourned until Jan.18 and Jan.19 2023.

In the new charge, Emefiele was the sole defendant and the charges were reduced from 20 to six, to which Emefiele pleaded not guilty.

The anti-graft agency had in August, first charged Emefiele and one Mrs Sa’adatu Yaro and a company, April 1616 Investment Limited, purported to belong to Mrs Yaro, on alleged breach of the Procurement Act in respect of the purchase of some vehicles.

However, the arraignment could not go on because of the reported ill health of Yaro.

However, when the matter was called on Friday, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, drew the attention of the court to an amended charge dated Nov. 8, 2023.

In the new charge, Emefiele was the sole defendant and the charge was reduced from 20 to six, to which Emefiele pleaded not guilty.

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