A former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, on Tuesday narrated before a Federal High Court in Lagos State how N1.2 billion was allegedly taken to former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State using an aircraft.
Fayose is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged fraud and money laundering.
He was first arraigned on October 22, 2018 before Justice Mojisola Olatotegun alongside his company, Spotless Investment Limited, on 11 counts.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail on October 24, 2018 in the sum of N50 million with sureties in like sum.
The defendant was, however, re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on July 2, 2019, after the case was withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun following EFCC’s petition.
Fayose also pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was allowed to continue on the bail earlier granted.
The EFCC has since opened its case before Justice Aneke and is still leading witnesses in evidence.
In December 2021, the commission called its 11th witness, Joanne Tolulope, who narrated how one Abiodun Agbele, said to be an associate of Fayose, allegedly bought property worth millions of Naira for the defendants.
When the case was called on Tuesday, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) announced appearance for the EFCC.
Messrs Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) announced appearances for the first and second defendants respectively.
Olanipekun then called on the 12th prosecution witness, Obanikoro, to testify.
Obanikoro told the court that when he was the Minister of State for Defence, he operated a company known as Sivan Mcmera, which was later utilised for purposes of security operations in Lagos.
He told the court that it was aimed at shutting out terrorists’ activities from the state, following intelligence reports.
He, however, said that before he became a Minister, the said company was operated by his son.
Obanikoro testified that his son resigned as Director of the company and the operator of its bank account when it became used for security purposes.
He said that he consequently became the operator of the account.
According to him, domestic security for clandestine operations in Lagos State was also employed to shut out activities of terrorists.
Besides, the witness told the court that the security operations were funded by the Office of the National Security Adviser.
On whether he knew one late Kareem Taiwo, he replied in the affirmative, adding that the said Taiwo was part of those who helped out with security operations.
When asked by the prosecution counsel to look through Exhibit E Series and explain the transaction of June 5, 2014 and how it related to the instant case, the witness told the court that there was inflow of N200 million into the account from the office of the NSA.
He told the court that although he could not recall exactly how it came in, he could see from the exhibit that there was inflow of N200 million on June 5, 2014 and N2 billion on June 16, 2014 from an impress account of the NSA.
Obanikoro further told the court that he had received a call from Fayose, who was then a governorship candidate in Ekiti State, asking if he had received any money from the Office of the NSA.
The witness told the court that he replied: “No,” and promised to get back to the defendant if the money arrived.
He said that when the money eventually dropped, he informed the defendant and asked how he wanted it sent.
Obanikoro testified that Fayose indicated that part of it should be in dollars and the other in Naira.
The witness told the court that he then called Ado-Ekiti to find out from a bank if it had the the amount but was informed that the branch did not have.
He told the court that since elections were fast approaching at the time, he had to take the money by aircraft from Lagos.
He said that the money was carried in two batches.
He said that the first batch was loaded in an aircraft, which conveyed him, while the remaining was loaded in another aircraft.
Obanikoro said that the total amount was N1.2 billion.
He added that dollars were procured through a bureau de change, but said he could not recall the exact amount.
He told the court that when he arrived in Akure, the Ondo State capital, he saw an aide to the defendant who approached him and introduced himself.
He said that he then called Fayose on phone and he requested that the money should be handed over to the aide.
The witness told the court that he then instructed his orderly to go with the aide, while he proceeded to Ado-Ekiti to meet Fayose.
He testified that in Akure, he saw a bullion van, which came to pick the money.
Obanikoro said that he met Fayose in a hotel in Ado Ekiti and told him what transpired at the airport.
The court adjourned the case until February 1 for continuation of trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that during the trial before Olatoregun, prosecution called witnesses from several commercial banks, as well as Obanikoro.
According to the charge against Fayose, on June 17, 2014, he and Abiodun Agbele illegally took possession of N1.2 billion for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State.
Fayose also allegedly received a cash payment of $5 million (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.
It also alleged that the defendants procured De Privateer Limited and Still Earth Limited to illegally retain N851 million.
It claimed that Fayose used about N1.6 billion crime proceeds to acquire property in Lagos and Abuja.
The commission also charged Fayose with using N200 million crime proceeds to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji.
The alleged offences contravene Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2011.