Alex Enumah in Abuja
A senior official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Michael Onyeka Ogbu, on Monday, told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), that documents before him showed former President Muhammadu Buhari approved the payment of $6,230,000 to some International Election Observers prior to the last general election.
Ogbu stated this while testifying as a prosecution witness in the trial of the former CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele.
Emefiele is standing trial on an alleged 20-count amended charge, preferred against him by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
According to the charge, Emefiele is alleged to have engaged in criminal breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy to obtain by false pretence and obtaining money by false pretence, when he served as the apex bank’s boss.
Among the allegations is that the former CBN boss forged a document titled: Re: Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions dated January 26, 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201 and purported same to have emanated from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (AGF).
Emefiele is alleged to have, on February 8, 2023 knowingly obtained, by false pretence, $6,230,000.00 by falsely representing that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation vide a letter dated January 26, 2023 with Ref No. 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.”
Testifying on the payment of the election observers, Ogbu who is the current Deputy Director and Head of the Service Delivery Division of the CBN, said the funds were released because the request documents contained evidence of approvals by former President Buhari and Emefiele.
Being led in evidence by prosecution lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, the witness who disclosed that he served as the Branch Controller until he was redeployed in September 2023, recalled that on February 8, 2023 there was a request for payment, addressed to the Branch Controller.
“On that day the request for the payment of $6,230,000 was received in my office by my Office Assistant, who brought it to my attention.
“When I received the document, I found that it is from Banking Services Department.
“The Director, Banking Services signed the memo, and the content of the memo contained an instruction for the Branch Controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation , with the identity and the name of the person mentioned.
“The memo said the payment was for international election observers and that we should debit an account – Naira Forex Account – with the naira equivalent of $6,230,000.
“The memo also said that the money will be refunded in the second quarter of 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“It went on to say ‘find attached the approval of the governor of the CBN for the payment.’
“The attachment had the approval of the governor of the CBN. It also had the approval of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the request letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”
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.