A former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, yesterday told the Federal High Court in Lagos the role he played in moving $5 million to Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.
He testified in the trial of former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) EFCC charged Fayose and Abiodun Agbele, who is facing a different charge, with taking possession of N1, 219, 000, 000 on June 17, 2014 to fund the former governor’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
The commission said Fayose “reasonably ought to have known” that the money “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing.”
EFCC said Fayose, on the same day, received cash payment of $5million from Obanikoro without going through a financial institution, the sum having exceeded the amount authorised by law.
The alleged offence, EFCC said, contravenes Sections 1, 15 (2) (d and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4)..
Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness, said the money was paid to Fayose’s account from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in June 2014.
According to the former minister, in June 2014 ahead of the Ekiti State governorship election, he received a call from Fayose asking if there was any “message” from the then National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
Obanikoro said the NSA eventually confirmed to him that he had a “message” for the accused.
The witness said Dasuki told him that money would be received in an account that was opened to manage Boko Haram insurgency under his watch as Minister of State for Defence.
“The NSA told me that Fayose will call me as to how he will receive the money. A total equivalent of $5million from the NSA impress account was given to Fayose by the order of NSA,” Obanikoro said.
The witness said Fayose introduced Biodun Agbele to him, explaining that he would be the one to receive the money for him, which was done at the Akure Airport “because it was physical cash.”
“I had earlier wanted to transfer the dollars so that the naira equivalent can be withdrawn in Ado Ekiti which was the reason why I initially called Diamond Bank Managing Director, but he replied that the bank did not have such capacity in Ado Ekiti for that huge amount of money,” Obanikoro said.
The former minister of state said his late aide was in the meeting where Fayose acknowledged receipt of total naira equivalent of $5million at Spotless Hotel owned by Fayose.
Jacobs then showed the witness exhibit E to confirm if it was the account to which the funds were transferred and the witness replied: “Yes”.
Obanikoro told the court that on June 13, 2014, and June 16, 2014, funds were posted into the account, adding that the funds were from the NSA’s impress account.
He said that he asked Fayose how he wanted the money sent, and that the former governor told him that some it should be paid in naira and others in dollars.
According to the witness, the money was eventually brought in a bullion van to the private wing of the Ikeja Airport, where Agbele, sent by the accused, was on standby.
He testified that after confirmation from the accused, the money was taken to Ado-Ekiti, following which he went to meet Fayose.
Obanikoro said the transactions occurred “about three days to the election”.
On the source of the money, the witness said: “The NSA is the only person that can ascertain the source of the money; it is from the impress account of the NSA.”
Obanikoro said that the account from which the money was transferred from was used for security purposes.